Real S'mores Bonfire: promoting sustainable food goal
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  • Grilling s’mores was always a risky job.
  • The intimacy a single light of fire offers was notable. Weinberg senior Renee Schaaf (left) and Andrea Ostenso, McCorkmick junior and NURF’s events chair, enjoy a cozy fireside talk.
  • Weinberg sophomore Andrew Chang came to support NURF’s acts, saying that “college campuses having good, healthy, nutritional food” is vital.
  • Newcomers gather around as the bonfire bring brightness for the windy night.
  • At 6:20 p.m. on Wednesday at the Lakefill, students were handed out skewers. Time to roast!
  • Allison Shapiro, Medill senior and NURF’s PR Director (left) roasts her marshmallow having conversations with participants.
Photos by Jimmy Yook / North by Northwestern

Northwestern University students came together Wednesday night for a 6 p.m. bonfire on the lakefill hosted by Real Food at NU (NURF), a food justice organization that promotes sustainable food on campus. As the night got colder and the smell of marshmallows spread by the wind, more strollers at Lakefield stopped by and picked up their own skewers.

Despite the strong winds that made starting a fire difficult, NURF's event celebrated the campus food justice advocacy organization.  Its mission is to make sure NU commits to a healthy and sustainable food plan that nourishes the environment and animals, according to founder and co-director Miranda Cawley, a senior in Medill. “Real food” is food that is “human, local, sustainable or fair trade as determined by a series of certifications,” Cawley said. This means it was produced locally and made through humane and fair-labor techniques.

In March 2014, Cawley founded the group to bridge her two interests: environment and social justice. In June 2015, University President Morton Schapiro signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, which pledged that 20 percent of food in the dining halls would be classified as “real” by 2020. So far, 35 schools throughout the country have signed. However, NU is the only Big Ten school so far to make the pledge.

“I wanted to be involved in activism that would make a tangible impact on the student body for years to come,” Cawley said.

“I think NURF is a great way to bring these issues of where our food comes from to college campuses, because we are adults now, so we have to be more conscious of what we put in our bodies,” said Weinberg sophomore Genesis Garcia, who plans on joining the club this fall. “We have a lot of power. If enough voices are heard, it could make a sustainable change to our campus.”

The Food Systems Working Group is in charge of implementing the campaign by bringing together all stakeholders of NU’s food system. Meeting twice a quarter, the group evaluates which food meets the “real food” criteria.

“I have weekly meetings with administrators and Sodexo employees where I’m treated like a colleague,” said NURF co-director Kara Rodby, a McCormick junior.  “We talk like co-workers, and that level of responsibility and maturity I would never have obtained outside of this organization.”

“We have created a new avenue through which students should get involved,” Cawley said.


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