Emory's sustainability vision sets an ambitious goal of 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in its hospitals and cafeterias by 2015. 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.
Initiatives in Sustainable Food
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.
Highest priority is a certification that includes social as well as environmental, economic, and animal welfare components, as it becomes available
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
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
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:
Meatless Monday, a global movement, arrived at Emory in the fall of 2013. It started at Oxford College and was soon taken up in Cox Hall, Dobbs Market, and Rollins Cafe. Emory Healthcare is also participating in the initiative.
The idea is simple: offer more options for meatless dining one day a week. Emory Dining has expanded the items on offer each Monday to include proteins from grains and legumes, as well as soy products like tempeh and tofu.
There are plenty of benefits to going meatless. For example, this simple choice can have a big environmental impact. Meat requires more energy and water to produce and process for market than plant-based alternatives. This translates into a bigger environmental impact, but also to extra cost; meatless meals are generally less expensive than their counterparts. There are health benefits as well; replacing meals one day a week with meatless alternatives helps support a diet with more fiber and less saturated fat.
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!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.