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Sustainable Food Procurement and Stakeholders at UNC


Lenoir Dining Hall on UNC's Campus.

Research completed by an Undergraduate Research Team funded by the UNC Office for Undergraduate Research in the 2019-2020 school year has been published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Studies, and Community Development. The team consisted of Leslie Alanis, Florence Brooks, Katelyn Cline, Katie McMahon, Isabelle Smith, Alexis Tammi, Amy Braun, and Andreina Malki and they were led by Dr. Amy Cooke (Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program) and Dr. Elizabeth Havice (Department of Geography).   

The Real Food Challenge (RFC) is a national student-led campaign dedicated to getting universities to use their purchasing power to support sustainable food. UNC has utilized RFC’s Real Food Standards since 2010 to guide its food purchasing for Lenoir and Chase Dining Halls. The Undergraduate Research Team was formed to analyze UNC’s Real Food progress over the last 10 years. The team collected background and historical research, interviewed UNC stakeholders, developed a survey, and examined alternative third-party standards. The team presented their research to Carolina Dining Services (CDS) in Spring 2020 and wrote the report “Sustainability in the UNC Food System, 10 Years On.” 

Katelyn Cline, one of the members of the Undergraduate Research Team, used her senior capstone as well as time post-graduation with the help of Alexandria Huber-Disla, Dr. Cooke, and Dr. Havice to write an article for publication based on the team’s research but with a focus on the influence of stakeholders on sustainable university food procurement. 

The article’s findings reveal that new and developing relationships emerge as third-party goals become institutionalized and these relationships are central in sustainable food transitions. At UNC, a small, vocal group of student stakeholders pushing campus administrators to commit to RFC evolved into a sustained collaboration between students and campus dining administrators. Additionally, the RFC commitment became formalized in the contract between CDS and its food service provider, Aramark. To read more about the role of stakeholders in UNC’s sustainable food movement, as well as the history of sustainable food purchasing and RFC at UNC, check out the article linked here.