November 30, 2016

Emory’s Sustainable Food Committee developed Sustainability Guidelines for Food Service Purchasing as a reference document for and roadmap to reaching the University’s aggressive sustainable and local food goal. The University strives to source at least 75% of the food served in its dining halls from local and/or sustainable producers by 2025 – one of the highest goals among colleges and universities in the nation.

Today, Emory Dining has made tremendous progress toward achieving this goal on the Druid Hills and Oxford campuses, by following these guidelines. In Emory’s dining halls:
  • Our chicken is raised without any antibiotic use and sourced locally from Springer Mountain Farms
  • Our turkey is raised without antibiotics as a routine additive in their food and water
  • Our ground beef is grass-fed from local sources: White Oak Pastures and Harris Robinette Beef
  • Our pork is raised without the use of gestation crate confinement systems and is sourced locally from Savannah River Farms and Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork
  • Our shell eggs and pre-cracked eggs are cage free and Certified Humane® by Humane Farm Animal Care
  • Our milk and yogurt come from cows not treated with the artificial growth hormone rBGH/rBST
  • We source seafood according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® guidelines for commercial buyers
  • Fair Trade coffee and tea is our standard
  • When in season we purchase fresh tomatoes from Florida growers that are part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food Program
  • We offer plentiful plant-based options every day, which have a lower carbon footprint than meat and dairy-centric choices. Emory Dining is listed on PETA’s list of top vegan friendly colleges, and much more.

    The guidelines were originally created in 2008 by the Sustainable Food Committee, a group of Emory University and Healthcare System students, faculty and staff appointed by Emory’s president to guide the institution’s food purchases based upon the latest research on food production practices and upon the availability of quality food in our region. The Committee defined “sustainable” practices, such as organic, fair trade, grass-fed beef, etc., based upon this research and defined the term “local” in two tiers. Purchases from Georgia farmers and producers are prioritized to multiply the positive social, economic and environmental advantages of building mutually beneficial relationships that support and enhance a healthy local food system in Georgia. If products cannot be sourced from the state, second priority is given to products from the eight-state southern region – Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. This regional definition of “local” was created to account for the limitations of the Georgia growing season, while encouraging the restoration of diversification in the southeast agricultural economy and minimizing the environmental impact of transporting food long distances.

    Over time, the people, practices, certifications and research involved with food production change, so the guidelines were recently revised in April of 2016. This revision explored national and international changes in certification processes and criteria for sustainable food. Emory Dining also changed food providers in May 2015 to contract with Bon Appetit Management Company, which brought their own definitions for sustainable practices that made some previous guidelines obsolete.

    According to Anthropology professor and faculty liaison to the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, Peggy Barlett, key changes to the guidelines include: adopting Bon Appetit’s “Locally Crafted” certification, which supports small, locally owned businesses producing value-added products; adding new certifications, including the Niman Ranch and LEO-4000 American National Sustainable Agriculture Certification; additional criteria for milk and dairy purchases that prohibit artificial growth hormones and the use of antibiotics and ionophores, substitutes for antibiotics, except for in disease treatment; and clarifying the acceptable Fair Trade, grass-fed, sustainable seafood and animal welfare certifications.

    Currently, about 40% of the food served by Emory Dining at the Druid Hills and Oxford campuses is locally and/or sustainably sourced. The guidelines will continue to help Emory Dining and Emory Healthcare procure quality, local food from producers who work to protect the environment, human and animal welfare, biodiversity, and the relationships and community built around food.

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