Evaluating the successes and challenges toward achieving the Real Food Commitment at Johns Hopkins University
Keywords:Local Food Systems, Sustainability, Food Procurement, Food Service, Real Food Challenge, Social Justice, Farm-to-Institution, Fair Trade, Animal Welfare, Higher Education
With their significant purchasing power, institutions of higher education can create substantial changes in the food system through their food purchases. The Real Food Challenge launched a national campaign in 2011 to shift food procurement at colleges and universities across the United States to local and community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane sources. In 2013, the president of Johns Hopkins University (JHU) signed on to the Real Food Commitment, pledging to purchase at least 35% “Real Food” by 2020. Drawing on interviews with students, dining staff, and vendors as well as an analysis of purchasing data, this research analyzes the successes and challenges that JHU stakeholders encountered in their efforts to implement this commitment. Although the university fell short of achieving its goal of 35% “Real Food” procurement, JHU spent US$4.7 million on local and community-based, humane, ecologically sound, and fair foods between 2013 and 2019. Most of the university’s successful procurement shifts focused on local and community-based foods and animal source foods. Challenges that hindered additional procurement shifts included the volumes and food preparation required by the university, student dining preferences, contracts that required purchasing from specific vendors, and staffing limitations. Lessons learned from the implementation of the Real Food Commitment can inform the evolution of sustainable and ethical food procurement standards at JHU as well as other universities and institutions.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Jeremy Berger, Raychel Santo, Isabela Garces
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