Navigating Local and Sustainable Foods: Development of an Evidence-based Environmental Sustainability Decision-Making Framework for Institutional Food Service Providers

Start Date: 
Jan 1, 2018
End Date: 
Dec 31, 2018
Apr 30, 2019

Institutional food service providers have an increasing number of production options to choose from in sourcing fresh, local foods, yet very little information is available to support comparisons of the environmental sustainability of such options. For example, if the local production of salad greens in northern climates requires technological supplementation of heat and light, is it actually better for the environment than shipping those greens in from warmer climates? What does environmental sustainability mean in this context, and how can it be measured? More importantly, how can institutional food procurement incorporate environmental sustainability decision-making into an already complex purchasing and logistics setting? In this project, we propose to conduct a life cycle assessment comparison of the environmental impacts of producing fresh salad greens for UM Dining via four different production methods. This will be complemented by client engagement, stakeholder interviews and focus groups aimed at identifying the general needs of institutional food service providers and perceptions regarding sustainability metrics. Combined, the assessment will provide the evidence base to catalyze the development of a pilot framework and decision-making matrix for use by institutional food service providers in selecting food purveyors that meet sustainability goals. In partnership with the Michigan Farm to Institution Network, we will also develop a template version of the UM pilot framework applicable to other food items and institutions, and operationalize the framework with Network members.

Graham Catalyst Grants

Catalyst Grants are offered in the fall and winter to support a range of short-term, small-scale collaborative activities. These grants are intended to help better define an issue or decision maker needs, gather resources and develop partnerships, and determine next steps. Activities may include, but are not limited to, convening workshops or a conference, preparing white papers, and project planning for larger collaborative projects that would be eligible for Transformation Grants or other funding opportunities.

University of Michigan - Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute