Help them to help you.
I learned this lesson through the Real Food Challenge at Evergreen. Not only did we petition the administration to sign on to the Real Food Campus Commitment (of at least 20% of all campus dining food being sourced either: local/community-based, ecologically sound, humane, or fair trade, mainly all third party verified certifications), we had hundreds upon hundreds of hours of meetings about it for years! We met with every administrator multiple times and talked endlessly about the financial viability of it, and had to prove, with hard numbers and endless unpaid hours of our time, that it would be financially and culturally feasible for the college. We had multiple school wide polls, organized focus groups, and gathered student/faculty/staff feedback about much needed campus dining improvements, and submitted that data to the college administrators along with our request.
When the President signed the #RealFoodCampusCommitment on Earth Day 2015 and I cried on stage from joy - after my mom and Les Purce sang "Home Grown Tomatoes" - he signed into existence the Evergreen Food Systems Working Group, a governance committee (which - as far as I know - means faculty and staff can get paid to attend meetings instead of having to volunteer their already strapped time) to represent the whole, united campus food system. Led by paid students, with members from all campus food entities - The Flaming Eggplant Cafe, The Evergreen State College Greener Bookstore, The Organic Farm at Evergreen, and Campus Dining, not to mention the TCFB TESC Satellite Food Bank, Student Activities at Evergreen, Evergreen Shellfish Club, Greener Organization, and others - and everyone who eats on campus or would like to eat on campus. Not only did we get that committee created, we wrote the structure of the committee, we wrote detailed requests for funding, proved there was value in its function, and received funding first from the Clean Energy Committee and then, this year, from President Bridges' office, with data crunching funding from Evergreen Residential & Dining Services.
We, Jesse Honiker and I, volunteered our time to train those paid student committee leaders, Courtney Peetz and Alex (Poz) Pozarycki, and helped them write The Evergreen State College's first ever comprehensive Food Systems Policy, that holds campus dining and Aramark accountable to Evergreen's values. Right now, the Evergreen Food Systems Working Group is ratifying their Bylaws and preparing to create a Multi-Year Action Plan for the campus food system, a plan that will unify campus food in tangible steps. We didn't just petition the administration to sign the commitment and then leave them to do what they do best and enact it. We enacted it for them. We made sure it happened. We guided it every step of the way to make sure it didn't get watered down or forgotten. We put measures into place to enforce it and continue it, even now that Jesse and I have both graduated.
Evergreen will never go self-op if you don't start making concrete plans right now and start making small steps to get there. It's going to take years. However long you think it's going to take, it'll take longer. That is a huge step, financially and bureaucratically, for the college. Positions will have to be created, funding gotten in a college with already very tight margins, and volunteer labor will have to fuel most of the change. It has to be planned ahead. Are you willing to do that work? How hard will you work to ensure Evergreen says "Fuck you!" to Aramark once and for all and has a working Organic Farm that supplies all of campus with dank food AND teaches students to be badass, financially-successful farmers? Can you work that hard, knowing all you can do is pass it on to the people who come after you, and hope they'll continue it with the passion you've instilled in them, and that someday it will happen?
I worked really hard toward the goal of Evergreen operating its own dining service. I got the Real Food Challenge signed. I created the Food Systems Working Group.
What will you do?
Emily Dunn-Wilder, Class of 2016
and here: https://www.facebook.com/evergreenfswg/