Conference on Sustainable Food Procurement by Institutions
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Brainstorming Session

NOTES – April 9, 2019

Sustainability Professionals

  • Georgetown University-safety, security of food service, UM Public Health, AASHE, UM Procurement, Fair Food Standards, Indiana University, NSF international, UM Office of Campus Sustainability, Fair Labor Association
  • Real Food Challenge-Indiana State has students doing the work and paying them. Started as a class project.  Campus leaders are in favor. High fructose corn syrup is discouraged. Post Doc is mentoring the students. 
  • Julian indicates Real Food would meet the standard for AASHE STARS new version.  
  • Procurement wants to try to push the language in RFP. Give preference to suppliers that have more sustainable products.  
  • Fair Food Standards -interested in working with others. How do universities know which farms are covered by Fair Food Standards. Tomatoes are the main items and in Florida and other small number of states. Connecting farms with Fair food. Cost is paid by private donations.  There is no cost to the worker or the farmers.
  • Collaborate with other universities in the tri-state area to have suppliers get on board.  Prioritizing purchases from Fair Food farms. Not necessarily exclusive. Could universities in Michigan collaborate?


  • Take-Aways from today: 
  • Agreement on certain aspects of farming. Reducing meat agreed. Local importance is not clear consensus. Putting things into action- Group of universities agreeing on a common set of goals.  
  • Getting more universities together to identify areas where we can prioritize procurement categories.  
  • Shift from Local/organic to fair trade and humane.



Role of Industry:

Responsibility to demands; producing ethical producers to decrease carbon footprint


  • Distribution
  • Relationships with customers
  • Price issues - fair prices to farmers and consumers?
  • Transportation issues - backhaul lack of infrastructure to support streamlining operations for sustainability

Balance Priorities:

  • Trade approach - supplier diversity
  • Small suppliers can thrive by looking into new niche markets and inclusive trade
  • Welcome sustainable into K12, but customer audience isn’t ready
  • 10% of audience is willing to pay more to get more, 90% don’t care
  • Initiate transparency & supply chain transparency and go from there
  • Food is seen as an area of thrift


University & Dining Programs:

Roles that Dining Departments Play:

  1. Biggest role - we provide the food
  2. Making procurement decisions, bringing options forward
  3. Writing into contracts where we want the university to be
  4. Procurement - finding products needed
  5. Divisional leadership, collection goals
  6. Meet needs of what chefs want

Talking points:

  • Buying co-op for small schools, more cost savings to help pay for sustainability efforts
  • OSU - 40% local and/or sustainable purchases is the goal
  • Stuff we are working on is uncharted territory, changes as we learn more
  • Purchasing functions are decentralized - made changes to increase a concentrated effort in purchasing
  • Involved in engaging students - reluctance to dictate what they eat
  • People don’t believe in climate change - styrofoam on campus last year - composting is scrutinized
    • Indiana grown is taking hold - burgers/produce
  • Getting processes in place to welcome local farmers & purchasing efforts in place
  • Food institute founded on campus - still there is a disconnect


  • Competing priorities
    • affordability, moving targets, change in student demands
  • Takes a lot of projects to find the ones that will be successful
  • Takes more work to do things in a sustainable manner; need to change culture
  • Student engagement - some schools driving itm some show limited interest
  • Food safety, getting story out is a challenge
    • Have to ‘keep talking’
  • Volume: if you can’t full scale, feature @ one dining unit
  • Institutional knowledge & relationships going away as people retire
    • New relationships need to be developed
  • Need to make thoughtful goals, not radical goals
  • No barriers to local
    • Cost is a bigger factor
  • Agreement - all aligned but may not agree; chef’s creativity
  • Costs a lot more money

Certification Bodies:

  • Don’t have another solution
  • Can lead to rebates for energy, etc.
  • What does certification mean? Name in a magazine?
  • We need a better system
  • Produce - help farmers meet certifications so food safety standards are met
  • Who is overseeing these organizations right now?
  • Should be done for consistency & trust - not for profits
  • Make you feel like you have done what you can
  • Who follows up with farmers, etc. that are certified
    • Need more than one audit per year
  • Coffee certification drives us nuts - how do we educate our students? Do we need fair trade organic?
  • Stars report research showed that we need to confirm their ‘sustainability’ claims
  • Market is limited on bodies such as poultry - certification
  • We need to understand what farmers are going through and react to that

Other Notes:

  • Chose items which are raised right, treated right - hard to get chef’s to follow
  • Getting students to buy into the program - like dog fish
  • Create a sustainability position
    • Given a broadline seat in the office 0 must work out of there, can handle other assets from there
  • Label fish that isn’t known as catch of the day
  • Plant based focus is the way to reach and broaden the conversation about sustainability
  • Umich is focused on marketing - social media is the missing link - not telling the sustainability story effectively
    • How are we communicating?
    • Meatless Mondays become sustainable Mondays at all dining halls raising inclusion
  • Sodexo pushed technology used to get messaging to students
  • Villanova is engaging at different levels - recognizing the amount of influence big food has on food
    • Lack of political leadership or leadership; lack of societal demand
  • Getting people to understand the ‘big picture’
  • Want to make sure things are easy for the early adopters - can make changes
  • The cultural shift will be hard unless there are things that will peak their interest
    • If we can at least get some people talking about it we can see some change





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