Real Foods Coordinator Brings New Perspective

Helping the College Meet the “Real Food Challenge” by 2020
– Thomas Aldrich ’19

As Grinnell College’s first real foods coordinator, Molly Schintler has a simple goal: “To ensure that the food people have access to is truly nourishing to people and the planet.” 

The new position has been funded for two years by the Grinnell College Innovation Fund. The coordinator is responsible for promoting food sustainability, which can cover anything from food sourcing and recycling to garden initiatives on campus. 

“My job,” Schintler says, “is to unite the administration, staff, faculty, students, and the whole community so they have access to and are engaged with a fair and just food system — a system that nourishes Grinnell’s community.”

Her duties include educating members of the local community about “real food.” Schintler says that real foods are foods that nourish all people and the planet. This not only means selecting locally grown or organic food, but also selecting food based on how it was produced. Fair trade and humane conditions are part of the criteria. 

The position of real foods coordinator came about as a result of the work of Madeline Warnick ’16. In winter 2013 she completed an independent study titled “Tracking ‘Real Food’ in Grinnell College Dining Services.” Her study found that only 7 percent of the food in the dining hall was considered real food, a percentage lower than at peer institutions in the Midwest, which use 20 percent or more real food. 

Dick Williams, director of dining services, estimates 15 percent of the food in the dining hall is now considered real food. The College aims to reach 20 percent as part of the Real Food Challenge, a national initiative to shift $1 billion of existing college and university food budgets away from industrial farms and heavily processed food toward local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane food sources by 2020.

Schintler is optimistic about the future of real food at Grinnell, saying, “Clearly Grinnell College does things very well. I’m a big proponent of doing well, but then always doing better, and going beyond doing good by making things fair and making them just, not just good.”

Share / Discuss