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Sustainable Food Practices (In Progress)
The 2015 iCAP, chapter 7, objective 4 is "Implement a project that examines the food service carbon footprint for Dining and other on-campus food vendors, while increasing local food procurement to 40% by FY25." Although increasing local food purchases were the primary food procurement initiative outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), there are several other sustainable aspects the University has tried to increase in their food purchases.
Food expenditures that are grown and processed within 150 miles of the University and/or purchases that are third-party certified (i.e. USDA Certified Organic, Marine Stewardship Council Blue Ecolabel, Food Alliance, Fair Trade, Certified Humane Raised and Handled) make up 28 percent of the total food purchases made at University Housing in FY17. These standards are verified through the menu management system and primary vendor(s). If campus use the USDA definition of local (400 miles), our local food would be 65%.
Although increasing local food purchases were the primary food procurement initiative outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), there are several other sustainable aspects the University has tried to increase in their sustainable food purchases. Sustainable meat methods, such as confinement-free, vegetarian-fed, and hormone free, are also being considered in purchases made at the University. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines are also taken into consideration as to seafood purchases made. We analyze the food provided daily, not just the producing area and processing factory, but also the footprint, which means, in the future, the consumer can know the footprint of the food consumed and have a choice to consume sustainable food. For example, the students can choose to eat a non-meat meal weekly and get information about the reduction of emissions based on their choices
Additionally, Dining Services also bought food from the Sustainable Student Farm to help develop sustainable farming technology, such as the food from frame farm, where the crops are grown on the wall, the production rate is three times that of a conventional farm. Meanwhile, we take efforts to increase recycling rates; for example, Dining Services uses coffee grits as fertilizers for crops, and encourages the usage of recyclable cups and plastic bags.
This campus includes six residence dining halls which serve about 25,000 meals daily during the academic year. All eat-in dishware use at dining halls is washable, and therefore re-usable. To-go meals are served in compostable containers. All napkins used in Residential Dining are recycled content.
Because of the volume of food services, these areas deserve serious consideration in regard to their environmental impacts, such as GHS emission. We have been making some efforts to consuming local food, which is the primary food procurement initiative, but we can do more to promote the sustainability in food.
Dining Services has made excellent progress in terms of procuring foods locally and continuing to look for methods to reduce environmental impact. Dining already procures approximately 28% of food from sources within 150 miles of campus, which includes 95% of all the produce grown on the Sustainable Student Farm. Up to now, these efforts have been primarily focused on increasing the fraction of local food, with less attention paid to explicit consideration of the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
With the assistance of relevant academic specialists and students, Dining Services could develop a Food Footprint for operations. This report would reveal the GHG emissions from food services, and inform future efforts to increase local food purchases, including which purchases contribute most to emissions and should be avoided.
The campus could make the information developed by Dining Services available to other campus food vendors. This information will help them make better decisions regarding the procurement of local foods and any associated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from these efforts.
The campus could also make a concerted effort to work with local farmers to develop robust markets for local foods, and local food processing facilities, which will enable a greater use of local foods both by our campus and our community.