Community relationships and sustainable university food procurement

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Real Food Challenge

Authors

  • Katelyn Cline The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Alexandria Huber-Disla The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Amy Cooke The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Elizabeth Havice The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.114.018

Keywords:

Institutional Food Procurement, University, Certifications, Real Food, Farm to Institution, Sustainable Purchasing, Accountability, Foodservice Companies, Relationships

Abstract

Many universities are working toward more sustainable campus dining food systems. Third-party standards that offer definitions of sustainable food and outline procurement goals are one tool universities can use to drive food system transformations. We seek to understand how campus community stakeholders influence campus sustainability commitments and what effects third-party certifications have on food purchasing and the campus dining community. We explore these questions by examining the circumstances surrounding, and outcomes of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)’s 2010 engagement with the Real Food Calculator/Real Food Challenge (RFC), a third-party standard for sustainable campus dining. Our analysis is based on reports from the past 10 years that document UNC’s progress with RFC, along with participant observations, stakeholder interviews, and a student survey. Our findings reveal that new and developing relationships emerge as third-party goals become institutionalized: at UNC, a small, vocal group of student stakeholders pushing campus administrators for third-party certification evolved into a sustained collaboration between students and campus dining administrators centered on maintaining and advancing purchasing toward more sustainable options. Over time, the RFC commitment was formalized into the foodservice contract at UNC. These findings suggest that community relationships at universities are central in sustainable food transitions: the relationships shape, and are shaped by, efforts to move toward more sustainable campus procurement practices.

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Author Biographies

Katelyn Cline, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

B.S., Environmental Science. Katelyn Cline is now working at Bowman Consulting as project support staff.

Alexandria Huber-Disla, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

M.A., Public Policy

Amy Cooke, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ph.D.; Teaching Associate Professor

Elizabeth Havice, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ph.D.; Professor

Published

2022-09-19

How to Cite

Cline, K., Huber-Disla, A., Cooke, A., & Havice, E. (2022). Community relationships and sustainable university food procurement: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Real Food Challenge. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(4), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.114.018