Sustainable Food
Emory's Sustainable Food Leadership Alliance students at the 2013 Georgia Organics conference
Click on the links below to go to our Sustainability Dashboard.

Emory's sustainability vision sets an ambitious goal of 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in its hospitals and cafeterias by 2025. Sustainably grown food supports environmental health, worker welfare and wages, and farm viability, as well as taste and nutrition.

A Sustainable Food Committee was named by former Emory University President James Wagner in the spring of 2007 to lead Emory’s Sustainable Food Initiative. The group includes a dozen members - faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students - from all across the University and has accomplished a number of projects including establishing food purchasing guidelines and creating our own food gardens to serve as educational tools.

Whether faculty, staff, or student, Emory supports sustainable food across campus. This video below provides a guide to eating well and sustainably at Dobbs Market, located in the Dobbs University Center (the DUC). For students interested in getting more involved, the Student Groups page provides information on the many sustainable food interest groups on campus.

As of 2016, both Emory’s Atlanta campus and Oxford College of Emory University are now officially Food Recovery Certified. This means a third party has certified that we donate food that would otherwise go to waste on a regular basis, at least 1 time a month.

Hannah headshot

Initiatives in Sustainable Food

Purchasing Guidelines
The Sustainable Food Committee reached consensus on definitions of “sustainable” and “local” food. Sustainability Guidelines for Food Purchasing were adopted in fall 2007, and provide clear goals and implementation steps for 10 categories of food purchases.

"Local" is defined in two tiers:
  • highest priority to Georgia farmers, through relationships with known producers. As products become available, we hope to buy more of our food from areas close to Emory.
  • a second priority is our eight-state region of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi. This broader region recognizes the limits of the Georgia growing season.

A number of certification systems are emerging in North America and around the world, to help verify food production methods that embody the triple bottom line of sustainability.

The combined commitment to local and sustainable aspects of food purchases allow us to contribute to a number of related sustainability goals, including:
  • rural economic health
  • civic vitality
  • open space preservation
  • reduced use of fossil fuels
  • environmental protection from harmful agricultural inputs and practices
  • preservation of biodiversity
  • safe and just working conditions in the agricultural sector
  • improved human health
  • optimal nutrition
  • new systems of accountability

Emory Supports Heritage Breed Livestock
As with heirloom varieties of plants, heritage breeds of livestock help support genetic diversity in agriculture. Unfortunately, the small independent farmers who raise these breeds are finding it difficult to compete with industrial agriculture. Emory supports these farmers by choosing to serve heritage meats. Learn more in this video:

Emory Farmers Market
The Emory Farmers Market is held weekly during the academic year and monthly during the summer. It is run, sponsored, and promoted by the Office of Sustainability Initiatives in collaboration with Emory Dining. It is governed by a subcommittee of the Sustainable Food Committee, which is currently convened by Chad Sunstein, the Farmers Market Manager.

The market serves as a gathering place for the Emory community and offers an opportunity to connect Emory students, faculty, and staff with local Georgia farmers and makers. The Market supports smaller Georgia farmers and their products, while providing the ideal space for consumers to establish a relationship with the people who grow their food. When the Market debuted on June 10th, 2008, there were 7 featured vendors. Now there are as many as 20 vendors depending on the season!

To learn more about the market, view our list of vendors, visit our Facebook page or sign up for our market newsletter. We are also on Twitter and Instagram! For questions, please feel free to contact Chan Sunstein at chad.sunstein@emory.edu.

Educational Food Gardens
Mission Statement: The Emory Educational Garden Project offers students, faculty, and the Emory community an opportunity to engage in local, sustainable food production. Through education, awareness, and meaningful work, the educational gardens offer opportunities to grow local, seasonal, diverse, and healthy food.

To date, Emory has eight small educational food gardens on campus that highlight sustainability and food. These food gardens are maintained by a team of staff, students, neighbors, and faculty and harvests are shared within each team. They are located:
  • beside Zaya's/Dooley's Depot
  • beside the Rollins School of Public Health
  • beside the Cox Hall ravine
  • at the Center for Science Education on Oxford Road
  • at Oxford College between the cafeteria and Haygood Hall
  • at Yerkes Primate Center - garden that provides enrichment plants for the primates
  • at the School of Nursing - a medicinal herb garden established as a celebration of healing and site reflection.
  • at the School of Medicine - to promote greater awareness about nutrition as an aid in maintaining good health.
The gardens boast lovely tomatoes, lettuces, peas, beans, greens, eggplant, broccoli, strawberries, and even cotton; the gardens have become islands of beauty, education and campus interest.

Emory Food Gardens are part of a growing sense of what it means to live sustainably, including:
  • increasing awareness of local food and education about what food crops look like and how they grow.
  • reminding passersby that eating locally reduces fossil fuel use and addresses global warming.
  • offering locales of respite and stillness, spaces to withdraw from the ordinary round of academic life.
  • fostering an awareness of seasons and the bioregion of which we are a part.
  • offering meaningful work that increases attachment to place.
  • educating about ethnic traditions and crops from around the world
The Educational Gardens on campus are maintained by teams and welcome volunteer workers. If you would like to join a team or want additional information, contact the Educational Garden Coordinator: gardens@emory.edu

Groups wishing to start a new garden can use this guide to apply for approval: New Garden Application

Please join us in the gardens this season! Now is the time we are enjoying this beautiful weather and putting in our fall crops - it's the perfect opportunity to get involved.

Depot Garden
Wed 4:30-5:30

Rollins Garden
Wed 12pm-1

Cox Garden
Wed 3pm-4

School of Medicine Garden
Varies - look out for email notifications from garden listserv

Theology Garden
Varies - look out for email notifications from garden listserv

Please contact emorysustainability@emory.edu for more information or to get on the Garden Listserv.

Organic Farm at Emory's Oxford College
Emory alumnus Trulock Dickson made possible the creation of an organic farm at Emory’s Oxford campus with the donation of a parcel of land covering more than eleven acres. In the winter of 2013, volunteers broke ground for the new farm, and an official grand opening was during the fall of 2014. When fully established, the farm will contain small orchards as well as space to grow a variety of vegetables, cut flowers, and shitake mushrooms. This produce will help fund the farm through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program which sells produce to the local community, as well as being served in Oxford’s own dining hall.

The farm serves as more than a source of produce, however. It is also a living laboratory. Under the direction of farmer and educator Daniel Parson, students can get hands on experience in sustainable agricultural techniques, something with which Parson has a great deal of experience. Named one of Mother Nature Network's 40 Farmers Under 40, Parson has also received the Georgia Organics Land Steward of the Year Award recognizing his years of experience as an organic farmer and educator. He envisions incorporating the farm into many different types of coursework at Oxford. "Farmers today have to be growers, mechanics, business people, salesmen and marketers. So almost any field of study could reflect on the farm."

Read more about the Oxford farm

Learn more about the farm in this short video with Farmer Daniel Parson.

Eating Sustainably: Information Sheets
In 2009-10, the Sustainable Food Committee created a series of short information sheets (2 - 5 pages) about many aspects of sustainable food, eating locally, how to understand food labels, nutritional content of sustainable food, and other issues of interest.

These sheets are available for public use and their preparation was supported by the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Emory Dining.

EATING SUSTAINABLY: an introduction to food

1. Defining sustainability and sustainable food
2. Food, foodshed, soil, and place
3. Identifying sustainable food: an introduction to marketing terms
4. Health benefits of eating sustainably
5. Nutrient content and sustainable food
6. Pesticides and organic foods
7. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
8. Food choices and environmental impact: meat and plant-based diets
9. Energy and food production
10. Animal welfare and factory farms
11. Grass-fed livestock
12. Sustainable seafood
13. Choosing local food
14. Sustainable food purchasing and the Georgia economy
15. Impact on farm workers
16. Fair Trade

Sustainability Summit on Food
A Sustainability Summit on Food was held in 2008 to expand understanding of sustainable food issues among all sectors of Emory, and foster informed dialogue around issues of sustainable food.

Summit 2008
Over two-half days in February, student delegates debated trade-offs among local, organic, fair trade, grass-fed, humanely raised, and sustainable seafood aspects of sustainability. In a simulation of food service menus, small groups of delegates were offered nine meals and alternative purchasing choices for ingredients, based on actual retail prices from Atlanta stores. With a given budget, they had to reach a consensus about how to allocate their food purchases.

The recommendations from the student summit emphasized fair trade coffee and tea and sustainably-harvested fish. Local produce was strongly preferred, hormone and antibiotic-free meat and dairy products were widely chosen, and organic eggs and milk were priorities for many groups.

The lively event built a stronger community around issues of food at Emory and created an approach that can be replicated in the future and shared with other schools.

To reach faculty and staff, the Summit committee conducted on-line survey to ask for preferences among the same set of choices around sustainable food that the student delegates had considered. Over 1000 respondents gave their advice. A series of open forums offered deeper discussions around sustainable food on campus.

Sustainable Food Fair
Students in a 1-credit anthropology course put on an annual Sustainable Food Fair each fall, in collaboration with the Office of Sustainability Initiatives and Emory Dining.

A lively midday event features music and roughly 40 stands of locally grown fresh food for sale, chefs offering delectable samples, stores featuring sustainably grown foods and other products, and nonprofits in the Emory area that are part of the sustainable food movement. The event has become one of the most popular fall events at Emory.

Interested in knowing more about local sources of sustainably grown and certified organic foods? Check out the Georgia Organics Directory to local producers, restaurants, farm-to-school programs, stores, and more.

Farmer Liaison

To support the expansion of local and sustainable purchasing, Emory University partnered with a local nonprofit, Georgia Organics, from 2007 to 2009 to hire a part-time farmer liaison.

Chaz Holt traveled around the state to provide information about the Emory sustainability program to diverse agricultural groups. He offered guidance to the food service distribution system, identified new farmer partners, and helped growers to become certified as sustainable producers with Food Alliance. Producer Guidelines for becoming an Emory Food Supplier were developed in winter 2008, to provide information for interested farmers.

Related Articles
Defining sustainability and sustainable food
Identifying sustainable food: an introduction to marketing terms
Energy and food production
Sustainable seafood
Food, foodshed, soil, and place
Pesticides and organic foods
Nutrient content and sustainable food
Choosing local food
Health benefits of eating sustainably
Grass-fed livestock
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Sustainable food purchasing and the Georgia economy
Impact on Farm workers
Fair Trade: What is fair trade and why should we care about it?
Food choices and environmental impact: Meat and plant based diets
Animal welfare and factory farms
Sustainability Guidelines for Food Service Purchasing
Food & You & Dairy: RBGH-Free Milk in Emory Healthcare Cafeterias
Sustainable Foods Information Booklet
Producer Guidelines for Becoming an Emory Food Supplier