Statewide Efforts Toward Sustainable Foods on Campus
Beginning in 2004, the Center has supported the process of engaging student, staff and administrative stakeholders to develop and implement a University of California systemwide policy on sustainable campus food systems, an effort which made significant progress in 2009 with the adoption of sustainable food system guidelines for the UC system (see below). This Center support includes incubating efforts within class and co-curricular programming at UC Santa Cruz, and hosting the statewide student Food, Justice, & Fair Trade "Strengthening the Roots" convergence held each February for the past five years.
UCSC’s Campus Sustainability Council (CSC) works with CASFS through Tim Galarneau and the UCSC students he oversees to participate in the statewide UC Food Systems Working Group (FSWG). Statewide, FSWG is working to create guidelines that prioritize local, organic, humane, and socially responsible purchasing, waste reduction, and green dining facility standards on UC campuses. This past year, FSWG helped submit the 2009-2010 Real Food Dining Report to UCOP and will help track UCSC’s adherence to its sustainability criteria using upgraded dining sourcing software.
In 2010, the Center hosted the Real Food Leadership Retreat featuring student leaders from across UCSC, other UCs, state schools, and community colleges to build relationships and hone efforts to empower students to change the food system.
The Center has also hosted statewide pre-conferences on food at the annual California Higher Education Sustainability conference in 2007, 2008, and 2010 and has co-chaired the food track sessions at the main conference. Center food systems researcher Tim Galarneau was honored at the 2011 conference with the University of California Sustainability Champion's Award, acknowledging his work to bring sustainable food to university and college food systems throughout the U.S. (read an article about Tim's work and award).
In 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 the Center piloted the Sustainable Agrifood System Internship program, which provided resources for students working in concert with campus staff and faculty to improve awareness and understanding of their food system. SAS interns have played key roles in advancing efforts to make their campus food systems more sustainable.
Below we review the activities that led to implementation of a UC-wide sustainable food policy, discuss some of the California-based activities in which the Center has been involved, and examine efforts taking place nationwide.
History of the Statewide Effort
As dining service departments began to address sustainability around the country, students on UC campuses began to organize around the issue. In fall of 2004, students across the state initiated discussions pertaining to sustainable food system activities taking place at each other’s campuses. These University of California students met at UC Santa Barbara in October of 2004 for the California Student Sustainability Coalition’s (CSSC) statewide convergence to launch the UC Sustainable Foods Campaign. Previously the CSSC has organized and collaborated with diverse stakeholders in creating statewide policies addressing alternative energy and green building, as well as transportation. Most notably, perhaps, UC Regents approved the Green Building and Renewable Energy Policy in 2003, which mandates that new buildings outperform state energy-efficiency requirements by at least 20 percent. In 2002, before the CSSC began organizing and urging the university to seek renewable energy contracts, none of UC's electricity came from renewable sources. Two years later, 16 percent does, making UC the largest university purchaser of renewable energy in the country.
Over the course of 2004–2005, the UC Sustainable Foods group developed its mission, goals, and statewide recommendations to address our campus food systems. They engaged each other via bi-weekly conference calls, organized quarterly retreats, visited each other’s campuses to lend support and share successful strategies for campus-based initiatives, and established inter-generational support through faculty, NGO reps, and leaders in the sustainable agri-food system movement. The campaign has since expanded to encompass higher education insitutions across California, engaging youth from CSUs, private colleges and universities, as well as community colleges (click here).
From 2005 through 2009 students from the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) worked in partnership with their student government (UCSA), student Regent, Board of Regents, UC Office of the President (UCOP), and Housing Directors to seek a University of California commitment to sustainable campus food systems. This commitment includes clear guidelines that prioritize local, organic, humane, and socially responsible purchasing as well as waste reduction and green dining facility standards. While individual campuses continue to develop their own food service initiatives, such across-the-board UC standards would provide campuses with minimum purchasing levels and baseline indicators for a sustainable food system, as well as establish ways to measure “best practices” for both contracted and in-house food service vendors and facilities.
Recently, UC’s Office of the President has made significant steps in establishing UC-wide sustainable food system guidelines. In fall 2009, President Mark Yudof signed the proposed food section, developed by students, dining staff, and key administrators, into the existing Policy on Sustainable Practices. This action built on a year-long UC-wide Food Systems Working Group effort in developing statewide guidelines to be incorporated into the existing Green Building, Alternative Energy, and Transportation Policy.
There has been tremendous growth in farm-to-college and campus food system efforts in California in the last five years, as the Center continues to link, nourish, and document the growth of this work. From 2006 through 2009, Center researchers partnered with the UC Davis Small Farm Center, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) on a USDA-funded farm-to-institution research effort designed to better understand food director, food buyer, student, and farmer perspectives. We are completing our research publications on this study that will further stakeholder understanding of the challenges and complexity in distributing local, organic, and fresh product from small and mid-size grower operations, as well as how students perceive and relate to sustainable food concepts. The latter point builds upon Center researcher Jan Perez’s “Farming the College Market” research brief and compares state and national samples of students surveyed. CAFF has already published a practitioner guide for enhancing farm to college efforts from this partnership.
Seeing the emergence of the first public university statewide policy on sustainability that includes all food service-affiliated operations is a noteworthy step in a larger trend of change based work being undertaken. Please click here to download the UC Policy on Sustainable Practices.
As the CSSC develops student leaders and continues to host its statewide gatherings and skill-based trainings, there has been national interest and coordination to promote and support these efforts across the United States.
Across the Nation
As early as 2006, national stakeholders began to examine existing and emerging sustainable food policies at college and university campuses across the country. As UC Santa Cruz’s efforts were included in this analysis, a larger initiative dubbed the Real Food Challenge was in development. Begun by discussions involving Center staff member Tim Galarneau, an advisor to the California Student Sustainability Coalition; Anim Steel, The Food Project National Programs Coordinator, and his intern Rowand Dunlop; and students David Schwartz from Brown University and Amie Frisch from San Jose State University, the Real Food Challenge originated to connect the dots stemming from campus efforts to enhance sustainable food and empower youth that were happening across the country.
This initial conversation grew to create a design team consisting of representatives from the Community Food Security Coalition, Coalition of Immokalee Workers/Student Farmworker Alliance, United Students for Fair Trade, Sustainable Food Systems Consulting, Sustainable Agriculture Education Association, Land Grant Sustainable Agriculture Centers and National Higher Education Sustainability Mentors, and more!
The “dream team” emerged to launch an initiative to shift over $1 billion of the $4 billion in university food buying to "Real Food" across the United States by 2020. This bold vision launched in fall 2008 and currently has over 330 campuses involved with 3,000 student leaders convening at five regional summits each year and five summer leadership trainings. The Real Food Challenge overview can be viewed by downloading this video link. The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems has continued to support the Real Food Challenge through staff advising, ongoing research and analysis through the Sustainable Agrifood System Internships and student research projects, and helping to host the West Coast summit that occurs annually at UC Santa Cruz.
How to Get Involved
For more information on our farm to institution and higher education outreach and education efforts contact Tim Galarneau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 831-459-3248.