Increase Regional Food Purchasing

About 23% of the produce served by Cornell Dining is sourced locally/regionally...


Local and Regional Food Sourcing is a Neutrality goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).



Reduce the environmental footprint of the food supply chain through increased regional purchasing.

Goal: About 23% of the produce served by Cornell Dining is sourced regionally/locally. To increase the volume of local purchasing, the Food Team is recommending that the university conduct an analysis of all campus food purchases to 1) identify local and regional food vendors, and 2) identify opportunities to increase both the supply and delivery of local and regional products.

Cornell’s commitment to local food dates back to the formation of the Cornell Dining Local Foods Advisory Council, (CDLFAC) a student/staff effort initiated in 2005. The council supports efforts to increase university procurement of locally grown food, provide education and outreach related to sustainable food and agriculture, and promote relationships with local farmers – in order to improve the quality of life for the Cornell campus and the surrounding community. Council members include students, chefs, staff, faculty, Cooperative Extension Agents, and Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES).

An ongoing challenge to increasing the local market share of Cornell food purchases has been that local producers cannot always guarantee crops or provide delivery to multiple locations. Cornell Dining contracts with a local distributor who can manage relationships with local growers and deliver a consistent supply to multiple dining facilities. Another challenge is that local products are often more costly than food imported from other regions. To maintain a balanced budget, Cornell Dining incorporates higher priced items as unique features rather than as consistent menu items.

Cornell Dining actively partners with the regional farming community to purchase seasonal produce and locally grown foods, including the following:

  • Local beef burgers
  • Local and regional produce
  • Local grains and legumes
  • Local dairy products
  • Local/regional shelf-stable products
  • Locally produced bakery products such as bagels and breads
  • Locally roasted coffees
Photo by Stacey Shackford. Mike Baker (left), beef specialist in the Department of Animal Science, and Matt LeRoux, agricultural marketing specialist from Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension, sample the locally sourced beef burgers.
Photo by Stacey Shackford. Mike Baker (left), beef specialist in the Department of Animal Science, and Matt LeRoux, agricultural marketing specialist from Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension, sample the locally sourced beef burgers.


In addition to Cornell Dining, there are many other food service and catering providers serving the campus community, including Maines, Cooper Booth, Sysco (which supplies most of non-Cornell Greeks & Coop housing), Premier Catering, F&T Distributing Company, the Statler Hotel/School, Aramark, the Temple of Zeus, Manndible Café, and the Law School. These “vendors” need to be included in data collection efforts and local food purchasing outreach campaigns.

In November 2013, Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Cornell Small Farms Program, and the Farmers’ Market at Cornell co-hosted the fifth annual Local Fair in Mann Library on the Ag Quad. The fair featured an open market of food, fiber, and energy products from the Finger Lakes region, as well as displays highlighting campus and community initiatives which support fair and equitable local economies and “value chains”. The goals of the Local Fair are to:

  • Celebrate the productivity and ingenuity of the Finger Lakes region;
  • Educate community members about local food, fiber, and energy systems, and localized economies;
  • Highlight campus-community partnerships that are vital to fulfillment of Cornell’s Land Grant mission; and
  • Encourage greater collaboration and innovation in support of these goals.

Learn more at http://localfair.mannlib.cornell.edu.

Campus activities that help to promote local food on campus include the Annual Fall Harvest Dinner, the Local Food Growers Dinner, as well as Cornell Dining Employee farm tours with local food suppliers.

Next Steps

  • Complete examination and characterization of Cornell Dining purchases in 2015.
  • Use Real Food Calculator to characterize food purchases in terms of distance from campus: local, regional, and other.
  • Determine the current volume of local/regional purchases for other major food purchasers.
  • Work with the Cornell Purchasing Department to explore sourcing areas and develop best practices to increase the local market share.
  • Increase local/regional food purchases by 5 to 10% over the next five years.

Resources

Obtain funding from the Atkinson Center to hire undergraduate researches to collect and analyze data.