The real meal deal: assessing student preferences for “real food” at Fort Lewis College

Authors: Kathleen Hilimire*, Fort Lewis College, Carl Schnitker, Fort Lewis College
Topics: Food Systems, Behavioral Geography
Keywords: environmental decision-making, contingent valuation, willingness-to-pay
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Fort Lewis College committed to purchasing 20% real food by 2020 as part of a national campaign called the Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge is an initiative on college campuses that aims to shift food procurement toward real food, defined as ecologically sound, humane, fair, or local. Our research explored student preferences for real food at Fort Lewis College; specifically, we studied the factors that influenced food choice, students’ willingness-to-pay for 20% real food, and the student characteristics that predicted this willingness-to-pay. We found that all four Real Food Challenge categories were important to respondents when deciding what to eat; but taste, health, and price were statistically more important than any of the Real Food Challenge categories. About two thirds of respondents were willing to pay more for real food. Statistically significant positive parameters driving willingness-to-pay more for real food were that a respondent considered taste an important factor when deciding what to eat, that a respondent agreed with the statement “It is important that my food reflect my values,” and that a respondent was from Colorado (in-state). Convenience was a negative parameter. In order to match these student preferences, campus dining services should emphasize benefits to taste and health when creating real food meals and should attempt to meet Real Food Challenge objectives without raising prices.

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