The UW Housing and Food Services (HFS) spends $8.5 million annually on food from 40 vendors. This is a huge fiscal sum that has a major impact on Washington State food economy, especially producer and process sectors. HFS currently lacks clear measurable definitions and standards to qualify “sustainable” and “local” food. When our RSO, Real Food Challenge (RFC), conducted a preliminary review of HFS purchases, we found ambiguity in definitions of local, when Coca Cola products were labeled locally based because processing plants are in King County. This audit will refine standards qualifying foods as local, ecologically sound, fair and humane, and will help clarify which specific food items HFS purchases really are local and sustainable. This will address another concern: lacking student awareness of the magnitude of the impact UW and HFS have on the food economy. Customers are not offered many transparent choices or sufficient information to eat locally or sustainably on campus.
The project purpose is to work with HFS long-term to improve food purchasing from sources that are locally based, ecologically sound, humane to animals, and fair to humans, in all points of the food value chain. Another objective is to increase student awareness of local sustainable food purchasing and options on campus. It is essential to include students in this process to improve student engagement with HFS staff and to help voice student opinion and strategize marketing of campus local sustainable food.
This project is the preliminary step to address these concerns. We will first conduct an audit of current HFS food purchases modeled after the Real Food Calculator, see realfoodchallenge.org/calculator. This audit will help identify which foods currently purchased are local and sustainable, and opportunities to improve. Creating this measure and producing a statistic of percent sustainable food at UW will give HFS and RFC a number for advertising and to improve upon in the future.