Open Collections

UBC Undergraduate Research

The sustainability of the UBC Food System : Collaborative Project II Forbes, Chad; Smith, Kerry; Wong, Tony; Jones, Lara; Quan, Vincent; Lu, Leslie; Cant, Meghann 2003-04-02

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


18861-Forbes_C_et_al_SEEDS_2003.pdf [ 323.02kB ]
JSON: 18861-1.0108692.json
JSON-LD: 18861-1.0108692-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 18861-1.0108692-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 18861-1.0108692-rdf.json
Turtle: 18861-1.0108692-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 18861-1.0108692-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 18861-1.0108692-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Student Report       The Sustainability Of The Ubc Food System: Collaborative Project II Chad Forbes, Kerry Smith, Tony Wong, Lara Jones, Vincent Quan, Leslie Lu, Meghann Cant  University of British Columbia AGSC 450 April 2, 2003           Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”.    1  THE SUSTAINABILITY OF THE UBC FOOD SYSTEM: COLLABORATIVE PROJECT II  Agricultural Scienc es 45 0 April 2, 2003 Group 14:  Chad Forb es Kerr y Smi th Ton y Won g La ra J ones Vincent Quan Lesli e Lu Megh ann Cant    ABSTRACT W it h regards to sust ainab il it y, the UBC Food S yst e m is susp ected b y some as being in a stat e of crisis.  In response, the Facult y of Agricult ur al Sciences, UBC Campus Sustainabil it y Office, UBC SEEDS program, AM S Food and Beve ra ge Dep artment, an d UBC Food Se rvices are coll aborati n g to brin g ab out chan ge.  Howeve r, befo re an y cha nges can be su ggested an d implemented, some indi cati on must be giv en of the sev erit y of this crisi s. To this end, we have bee n assi gned th e task of developi ng a mod el to asse ss the sust ainabili t y of the S yst em.  We begin b y providi ng a definiti on of the pro blem and outl ini ng how our value assum pti ons influence thi s defini ti on.  We also define sust ainabili t y.  Th en we conceptualiz e what is me ant b y a sust ainable and an unsust ainable S ystem an d describe the conti nuum betw een the two.  We pr ovide a map of the S ystem that identi fies its boundaries, compone nts, interacti ons, go als, and linkages to local, regional, nati onal, and glob al food s ystems.  We then propose three si gnific ant indi cators to measure th e sust ainabili t y of the S yst em and desc ribe them in detail.  For an ecolo gical indicator, we recomm end the food mile age of produ ce at UBC.  We suggest   2  awar eness of nutriti ous foods among students, sta ff, fa cult y, and residents at UBC as a social indicator.  The cos t of nutri ti ous food on campus is presented as an economi c indicator.  Finally, using all of this information, we create and explain a “Sustainability Master Metre” on which the sustainability of the UBC Food System can be measured and the severit y of the crisis evaluated.    INTRODUCTION Each da y, the UBC Food S ystem feeds thousands of students, staff, facult y, and residents.  Lik e a ma chin e, the S ystem grinds on and on, producin g food an d gen erati n g waste, in a conti nual effo rt to feed the people that keep it running. In the mids t of thi s comp lex and impressi ve machiner y, a gro wing numb er of people ar e becomi n g con cerned with the curr ent state of the S ystem.  Amon g them are members of the Facult y of Agricul tural Scien ces, s taff of the UBC Campus Sustainabil it y Office and UBC SEEDS program, and empl o ye es of the AMS Food and Be vera ge Department and UBC Fo od Services.  With trends towards an inc reasin g po pulation, a gr eate r demand fo r food, and escal ati ng amoun ts of waste, the sust ainabili t y of the S ystem is being call ed in to questi on. Our project is born of this concern.  We have be en asked to develop a mod e l to assess the sustainabil it y of the UBC Food S ystem .  Specificall y, we have t o: ● define the problem of evaluating the sustainability of the System ● describe our value assumptions as they pertain to our understanding of and methods of handli ng thi s problem ● provide a conceptual definition of a sustainable and an unsustainable System and describe the conti nuum between the two ● construct a map of the System that identifies its boundaries, components, interactions, goals, an d linkages to loc al, regional, nati onal, and global food s ystems ● propose at least three sustainability indicato rs (e cologic al, social, and eco nomi c) that could be used to evalu ate the sustainabil it y of the S ystem ● describe the research involved in using these indicators   3  It is hoped that our work will la y the found ati on fo r future studi es of the sus tainabil it y of the UBC Food S ystem.    PROBLEM DEFINITION In previous ye ars, studen ts have ex ami ned the sustainabil it y of certain components of the UBC Food S ystem, such as Pla ce Vani er, the UBC Far m, Subwa y, Ago ra, Bread Garden, an d The Barn.  How ev er, to our knowled ge, no on e has undertak en the task of assessin g the enti re S ystem.  Th ere is a need to ex plore not onl y the indivi dual components, but the myri ad of intera cti ons that take place betwe en them.  Thus, the problem lies in developi ng a mod el that will enable future gener ati ons of students to stud y the sustainabil it y of the UBC Food S ystem as a whole.    VALUE ASSUMPTIONS Our underl yin g values de termi ne the wa y we int er pret sus tainabil it y and pr ovide the “lenses” through which we view the c ur rent UBC Food S ystem.  The coll ecti ve values of our team members provide the basis for defining the pathwa ys to sust ainabili t y and creati ng th e tool s with which to measure ou r progress.  As a group, we value the natural world, but it is more of an “instrumental” acknowledgement than an “intrinsic” appreciation.  According to Murdy (1), evolution dictates that species “exist as ends in themselves” and must behave in ways that enhance their own survival or risk extinction.  Accordin gl y, we view th e liveli ho od of our specie s as ulti matel y the most important.  This is reflected in the co mponents of our model that assess the social and economi c well being of the comm u nit y members; how ever, we also re co gniz e the interrel atedness of all thi ngs and beli ev e tha t nat ural resour ces, not te chnologic al advan ce, hol d the ke y to our survival.  The healt h of the comm unit y is dete rmined not onl y b y the healt h of its human populati on, but also b y the healt h of the su rrounding environment. As the surroundin g ecos ystem is a vit al determina nt of our ex ist ence, ecolo gic al sust ainabili t y shoul d also comprise a me aningful component of our evalu ati on.  According to Murdy (1), nature is our “life support system” and we cannot be truly human- centred until man “accepts his dependency on nature and puts him self in place as part of it”.  This view is consistent with the values of our group; therefore, we approach   4  the task of measurin g the sust ainabili t y of the UBC Food S ystem guided by the prin cipl es of weak anthropoc entrism . Wit h respect to our view s on comm unit y and indi vidualis m, we feel that o ur ex ist ence will be strength ened b y a coordinated eff ort that benefits the com muni t y as a whole, rathe r than se gr e gated ef forts that promot e indi vidual int erests .  However, we cannot entirel y avoi d the influence of a societ y tha t emphasiz es the indi vidual.  We reco gniz e the ben efits of rel yin g on loc al producti on and comm unit y own e rship, yet som e of our wants are cont radi ctor y to thes e principl es.  As the dist ributi on of our values wavers along th e conti nu um of anthropocentri c, biocentric, comm unit y, and indi vidual values, we  reali z e that what we hav e defined as th e true ex tremes of ecolo gical, social, and economi c sust ainabil it y might not be enti rel y achievabl e.  Howev er, th ese definiti ons provide directi on and an ideal desti nati on in our journe y towards a sust aina ble UBC Food S ystem.   DEFINITION OF SUSTAINABILITY To us, sust ainabili t y ref er s to the long term viabil it y of a s ystem, be it natur al ecos ystem, agro ecos yste m, or food s ystem.  It may be thou ght of as havin g three unique aspects: an ecolo gical as pect, a social aspect, and an economi c aspect.  Eac h aspect ma y be looked at sepa ratel y, but ulti matel y the th ree m ust be viewed to gethe r.  The y do not operate in isolati on.  The y are int erd epend ent and int erconnect ed.  Each co ntribut es significa ntl y to sustainab il it y as a whole .   OUR VISION OF A SUSTAINABLE UBC FOOD SYSTEM W e felt that it would be a valuable ex perienc e to carr y out a pro cess of visi oning, sim il ar to the one describ ed by Li eblein et al . (2).  We sat down togethe r an d took turns discussi ng what we beli e ve const it utes a sust ainab le UBC Food S ystem, m aking sur e to address the ecolo gical, so cial, and economi c aspe c ts.  We put forth and questi on ed our ideas until we wer e able to come to a consensus.  The result s of our visi oning pro cess repres ent a blendin g of our thoughts and are sum mariz ed below. We thi nk that a sust ainable UBC Food S ystem wo uld:   5  ● rely on fewer external inputs and a greater nu mb er of int ern al inputs (suc h as food from the UBC Farm) ● produce little waste and place an emphasis on renewable resources and recycling (ex ampl es include reusab le mugs and cutl er y) ● work to conserve and enhance natural resources such as soil (encourage compos ti ng, for ex ampl e) ● minimize practices that degrade the environment (for instance, reduce pesticide use) ● respect wildlife and strive to protect and promote biodiversity ● recognize the need for permeable surfaces and create more green spaces (gre en spa ces could possibl y be used fo r urban agriculture proj ec ts such as communi t y ga r dens) ● offer a variety of nutritious foods in order to promote human health (including students, staff, fa cult y, and resid en ts) ● make use of locally grown and seasonally avail able food ● offer relatively inexpensive food ● provide a sufficient quantity of food to meet the needs of a growing UBC population ● ensure that all people have equal access to food and have appropriate support systems in place to this end ● encoura ge people to be awar e of their connecti o n to the S ystem (namel y, where and how their food is produc ed) ● fuel a desire in people to participate in the production of their food (such as volunt eering at the Farm) ● foster in people an appreciation for the ef fort required to grow, harvest, process, and market their food ● emphasize meals that are centred on families and communities and that time should be taken to prepa re and shar e them This shared visi on is, as stated by Li eblein et al. (2), a collection of “ powe rf ul mental images of what we want to create in the future”; it reflects “what we care about the most” and is “harmonious with our values and sense of purpose”.   OUR VISION OF AN UNSUSTAINABLE UBC FOOD SYSTEM   6  After we had finished en visi onin g a sust ainable S ys tem, we went on to imagin e an unsust ainable one, again being car eful to include the ecolo gic al, social, and economi c aspects.  Usin g the same visi oning process as befo re, we gener ated the resu lt s summ ariz ed below. In ou r opinion, an unsustainable UBC Food S yste m would: ● be heavily dependent on external, nonrenewable inputs, while disregarding and beli tt li ng int ernal inputs ● produce large amounts of waste and generate no widespread support for recycling ● permit and support practices tha t de gr ade natu ra l resources and the envir onment ● give little consideration to preserving biodiversity ● value impermeable surfaces and deemphasize green spaces (allowing land that could be used for agriculture, recr eati onal gard ening, or as habit at for wi ldl ife, for in stance, to be sacrific ed for the sake of parking lot s and buil din gs) ● not value human health ● make use of food that is not locally grown, but travels long distances to enter the S ystem ● offer a great variety of foods, regardless of seasona l avail abil it y ● offer nutritious food that is more expensive than unhealthy food ● be unable to provide enough food to meet the needs of a growing UBC population ● overlook those people that do not have adequate access to food and have no appropriate supp ort s ystems in place to prevent this ● give little thought to whether or not people have knowledge of their connection to the S ystem ● not encourage people to take part in the production of their food ● not engender in people a feeling of celebration in th e abil it y to grow, ha r vest, process, and market their food ● support meals that are fast and easy to prepare and eaten alone and “on the run”  THE SUSTAINABILITY CONTINUUM W e reco gniz e that our co nceptual definiti ons of a sust ainable and an unsust ainable UBC Food S ystem rep re sent two ex tremes on a conti nuum of sust ainabili ty.  At an y   7  given tim e, the Univ ersity ma y lie at a certain poi nt along thi s conti nuum, being neit her wholl y sust ainable nor unsust ainable.  In addit ion, UBC ma y be closer to achieving sustainabil it y in on e aspe ct and furthe r in another. Ex cell ent.     MAP OF THE UBC FOOD SYSTEM The UBC Food S ystem i s made up of mul ti ple co mponents that continually int eract wit h one anoth er in a variet y of wa ys.  The se int eracti ons can be s yn er gist ic (components acti n g to get her) or anta gonist ic (com ponents acti ng in oppos it ion to one another).  In doing so, ea ch component ex erts an i nfluence on othe rs.  The result is a complex network of relat ionsh ips, of acti ons and reacti ons.  Fu rthermor e, at each lev el of organiz ati on (from an in divi dual component to the enti re s ystem), prop erti es emer ge that were not pr esent at the level below.  These propert ies are te rmed eme r gent and are chara cterist ic of that part icular level of or ganiz ati on.  The y arise from the countl ess int eracti ons that take pla ce betw een compon ents withi n the contex t of the enti re s yst em (3).  The y are dif ficult to predict when me rel y loo king at indivi dual compo n ents.  So, in short, the UBC Food S ys tem is far greater than th e sum of its components.   With thi s in mind, we developed a map of th e S ys tem, which is diagramm e d in the Appendix and ex plained below. Boundaries W e feel that the bounda ries of the UBC Food S ystem are both visual and perceptual.  The visual boundary is defined as “extending to the University Gates and incorporating all food production, retail outlets, and disposal within those parameters”.  The per ceptual bounda rie s are more compl ex and therefo re mor e difficult to define.  Ex ampl es include legal, economi c, and environmental boundaries.  A lega l boundar y arises from the contra ct between UBC and Coc a Cola that prevents the Uni versit y from bringin g in and sell in g an y other t yp es of soft drin ks on campus .  An econo mi c boundar y is created if lo call y grow n or or ganic food is too ex pensive for students, staff, fa cult y, or residents at UBC to purc hase.  Soil and cli matic lim it ati ons form an enviro nmental boundar y that prev ents certain t yp es of foo d from being gr own on campus at the UBC Farm and in gardens.   8  Components The components of the S ys tem are hi ghli ght ed in yell ow on the m ap.  Where appropriate, they are recognized as being “local, regional, national, and global” (in red).  In particular, th e “waste and pollution” and “waste food and waste packaging” that are generated by the System are shown to have “local, regional, national, and global” im pli cati ons for the envir onment (in blue). Interactions On the map, the int era cti ons between the compon ents of the S ystem are repres ented as bla ck ar ro ws and, in the cas e of the UBC Farm, as gr een arr ows.  The int eracti ons of the compo nents with their products are hi ghli ght ed in blue. Goals W e beli eve that the goals of the S ystem are twofol d.  On one hand, it strive s to provide “good food, friendly service, and value”, while on the other hand, it endeavors to maintain “financial integrity through dedicated and skilled employees” (4).  SUSTAINABILITY INDICATORS W e feel that sus tainabil it y indi cators shoul d be eas y to underst and, appl y, and int erpret, as well as relev ant and comm unicable.  The y shoul d be useable year after ye ar in order to provide a lon g term view of sust ainabili t y.  The y shoul d also hi ghli ght linkages and be used in concert with one anoth er.  The y shoul d mak e use of data that are acc essi ble and reli abl e.  The y shoul d me asure pro gr ess, ex plain sust ainabili t y, educ ate comm unit ies, motivate people, and fo cus acti on (5).  We did our best to choose indi cators accordin g to thes e crite ria and provide a thorou gh rati onale for doin g so.    Ecological Indicator For an ecolo gical indic ator, we hav e chosen th e fo od mileage of produ ce at UBC.  In order to ad equatel y as sess the ecolo gical stat e of the UBC Food S ystem , producti on , processi n g, and tr ansport ati on of food from sour ce to consumer requir es ex ami nati on.  It is withi n these areas that the ecolo gical load that we impose on the enviro nment becomes apparent, sinc e the av era ge dist an ce tr aveled b y a food product in North Ame rica be fore it is consumed is 1300 mil es (6).   9  The rise of globaliz ati on and the incre ased avail ab il it y of foods outsi de of their normal growin g seasons have en abled consum e rs to rel y upon produce th at is derived from non-local sour ces.  In doin g so, foods are pr oduced b y farmers in pla ces far removed from the desti nati on of consum pti on.  Furthermore, int e rmediate sources are required fo r proc essi n g, packa gin g, and tr ansport ati on to a retail out let at the end of the product’s journey. The advanta ge of maint ai ning food in its local agri cult ural communi t y is that food does not travel throu gh t he same vast netwo rk of hands.  Instead, loc al foo d is processed or packa ged (or both) wit hin a confined dist anc e, max im iz ing local labour, and sold eit her dire ctl y from the producer or throu gh a loc a l retail out let.  In doin g s o, funds ma y change hands between three and four times from source to consumer.  This is called “the multiplier effect” and is greatly increased for every food mile that the raw product travels from its source (7 ).  Reta ini ng products withi n a smaller geo gr aphic radius of producti on enhanc es the economi c viabili t y of comm unit ies and reduces th e ecolo gic al load placed by food producti on and consum pti on on natural resources. As menti oned befor e, thi s concept of food miles in trackin g the movement of fresh produ ce onto the UBC campus is our chos en indi cator for ecolo gical s ustainabil it y.  We beli eve that the fe we r miles a product has tr av eled, the less harm is don e to the environment throu gh the use of fossi l fuels for tr a nsportati on.  This also promotes gr eater use of local produ cts and gr eate r aw aren ess of pro duct origins b y the consum er.  A portion of our visi on for a sust ainable UBC Food S ystem includes the cons umpt ion of produce from local sourc es or at least of goods tha t have travel ed the least amount of miles from their origins.  An unsustainable S ystem would be measur ed b y a greate r amount of food miles.  Three ke y food provide rs on campus , namel y the AMS Food and Beve ra ge Dep artment, UBC Food Serv i ces, and UBC Vill age, would be us ed to assess sust ainabili t y pro gress b y tot ali ng miles traveled for each provider on an an nual basis, with the goal of dec reas e d miles per annum per pr ovider.   W e beli eve that to support bot h food securit y an d sust ainabili t y withi n the boundaries of the UBC campus, we should follow Kloppenburg’s “foodshed” model.  Accordin g to his model, self -sust aini ng farms tak e advanta ge of their lo cal environment and resour ces, but replen ish them through rec ycli ng, compos t in g, and use of anim al   10  nutrients.  Ecologic al sus tainabil it y is char acte riz ed by a phil osophi cal relat ionsh ip wit h the land that is regen erati ve and not ex ploi tative (8).  The UBC Farm is an example of a community-based approach to enhance the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of the UBC Food System through the use of local labour to produce local food and by removing less waste from its place of origin to increase nutrient cycling.  Social Indicator Our chosen so cial indi cat or is the awar eness of nut ritiou s foods among stud ents, staff, fa cult y, and resid en ts at UBC.  Social capit al must also be consi dered when assessing comm unit y sus tainabil it y (5).  Accordin g to Hart (5), the educati on and healt h of comm unit y membe rs are ess enti al determinant s of social vit ali t y.  Liebl ein et al . (2) discuss the importance of understanding the workings of the food system and “one’s own place within it”.  As the awareness of nutrition can enhance the community on “both a personal and a societal level”, we incorporated this theme as a vital component of our UBC Food S ystem an al ysis (2). Accordin g to Ea rl y (9), t he marketpl a ce is fil led with man y opti ons, som e of which “accord well with concepts of good nutrition” and some of whi ch ar e “questionable in terms of their value to the health of consumers”.  Increasing the awar eness of food nutrit ion is an essential task because comm unit y membe rs need a knowledge base from which to “make wise food choices from the plethora of products” (9).  Although Earl y (9 ) discusses the obli gati on of food busi nesses to con tribut e to the healt h of the comm unit y, he beli eves that consum ers should also take resp onsi bil it y for their own healt h.  In ord e r to make approp riate dec isi ons, indivi duals must be equipped with the necessa r y tool s. Lieblein et al. (2) suggest that transparency and “mental closeness” are key concepts in incr easin g awaren ess in the comm unit y.  Ensurin g that app rop riate information rea ches all members of the comm un it y, and is not just confined to specific segments o f the population, is an important step towards sustainabil it y; ho wever, this alone “may not be sufficient to establish transparency, understanding, and closeness of mind” (2).  Awareness must be enhanced through perso nal ex perienc e (2).  The UBC Farm can provide this ex perienc e and reestabli sh t he linkages betwe en prod ucti on and   11  consum pti on.  As members become fami li ar wit h the origin o f their food, bett er decisi ons can be mad e which consi der the nutrit ional value and environmental impac t of food choices.  As Lieblein et al. (2) suggest, “when there is a mental closeness in the food system, there are no hidden areas”.  If education about the nutritional benefits of fresh, local produce t ransc ends throughout the comm unit y, more people mi ght be persuaded to purchase UBC produ cts.  Not onl y will the healt h of the comm unit y ben efit from improved nutrient retenti on and decr eas ed chemi c al ex posure, but decre ase d food mileage and less ex ternal reli ance could contribut e to ecolo gi cal and econo mi c sust ainabili t y as well .  In addit ion, the increas ed invol vement at differ ent le vels of the UBC Food S ystem can stren gthen comm unit y int e racti ons.  A comm unit y t hat works togethe r wil l be more lik el y to achieve the goal of a more sust aina ble futur e. As educati on is one of th e primar y steps in the pro gr essi on toward sustaina bil it y, we felt compelled to incl ude it as part of our mod el.  Our social indicator i s designed not onl y to measur e the abil it y of comm unit y membe r s to make informed dec isi ons about nutrit ious food, but also to assess the level of comm unit y und erstandin g an d invol vement with respect to the ori gin s of food and the UBC Farm.  By me asurin g food mileage, it is hoped that “spatial distance” from our food sources might eventual l y be red uced and now, by assessing the awareness of nutritious food, it is hoped that the “psychological distance” from our food sources might also decrease (2).   Economic Indicator W e have chosen the cost of nutrit ious food on cam pus as an economi c indi c ator.  Financial capit al is an important aspect of comm unit y healt h and must be consi dered as an equal pa rt to natural and social capit al in the at tempt to define a sust aina ble UBC Food S ystem.  An economi call y viable comm unit y is on e in which mone y is avai lable to circulate  withi n the com muni t y and invest in its improvement (5).  It is als o one wher e indi viduals enjo y finan cial well bein g and the fin a ncial capit al is pres erved as a whole (5 ).  H ealthy community economics are important to obtain “material goods and services that we use in our lives – fro m the basic nec essi ti es to special ex tras that make life more enjoyable” (5).  As healthy food is one of these fundamental needs, we chose to emph asiz e the affo rdabil it y of nutriti ous food as an important component of our   12  sust ainabili t y mod el.  Ou r economi c indi cato r is a measure of ho w much of indi vidual income withi n the UBC comm unit y must be devot ed to obt ain adequat e nutrit ion or, in other words , how much of an economi c bu rden the cost of quali t y food imp arts. High food costs undermi ne the economi c healt h of the comm unit y.  Hart (5 ) suggests that “material goods such food, water, energy, and clothing are all necessary for survival”; yet, if indiv iduals are fo rc ed to purchas e ex pensive food, other ba sic needs ma y suffer.  Community economics are determined by “how we manage our households, both our individual households and our collective community households” (5).  How can people ef fecti vel y man a g e their households if the financial burden prevents the sati sfacti on of ev en minim al needs?  People need to be free from finan cial stress to enjo y and enhance their community.  Financial capital must be “nurtured so community capital continues to improve” (5 ). Accordin g to Ea rl y (9), adequate healt h y food is a moral right.  Hi gh food costs , however, can se rve as a barrier to obt aini n g thi s du e.  If membe rs cannot aff ord adequat e nutrit ion, food securit y is compromi sed and ther e ma y be widespr ead cons equenc e s for the comm unit y.  People ma y turn to lowe r quali t y items as a result or make do with insufficient quantit ies.  Improper nutrit ion can be detrimental to healt h, lea ding to lower producti vit y be cause of decre ased ener g y lev els or increas ed sickness.  As the healt h of the comm unit y members deteriorat es, so does the healt h of the comm unit y as a whole.  Both ph ysi cal and co gnit ive perform ance m a y suf fer and healt h care costs could increas e as a result .  In addit ion, the well bein g and s yne r gy amon g comm unit y me mbers could be adversel y aff ected.  As social viabili t y weakens wit h high food costs , the in teracti ons between soci al and econ omi c factors be come cl ea r. Early (9) discusses the concept of “food ethics”, which questions the social responsi bil it y of food bu sinesses.  Although some feel that busi nesses do not have a moral obl igati on to prom ote the healt h of their co nsum ers, Hart (5 ) su gges ts that businesses “need to respect and enhance the community in which they exist”.  High food costs refle ct a lack of coo perati on withi n the com muni t y, while low food costs indi cate a respect fo r consum e rs an d a coordinated effo rt am ong busi nesses and com muni t y members towards makin g the comm unit y a bett er place to be.  Accordin g t o Hart (5), thi s t ype of comm unit y gro wth i s an essential part of sustainable developm ent.   13  Adequate nutrit ion is a basic ri ght.  A sust ainable UBC Food S ystem woul d ensure the pro visi on of adequate nutrit ion to all its members whil e pres erv ing or promot ing the economi c healt h of the comm unit y.  The eff ects of thi s objec ti ve are far reac hin g, with man y int e racti ons, which is wh y we feel that the affo rdabil it y of food is a vital component of the su stainabil it y mod el for the UBC Food S ystem.     RESEARCH DESIGN S ustainabil it y indi cators are onl y useful so far as people know how and ar e able to use them.  There fore, we must do more than simply pr esent what indic ators we have decided to include and wh y we have chosen them; we must outl ine a rese ar ch design that states how to measure th em, when to appl y them, and with whom and for whom to stud y them. Ecological Indicator Food milea ge is a qu anti tative indicator.  We prop ose to measure it b y first determi ning the sou rce of various food items and then calculati n g how far, in kilom eters, that source is from UBC.  The ori gins of items can be asce rtained b y surv e ying food outl ets and asking man a gers for clarific ati on when the source is not provide d on s igns or labels.  If mana gers are unsure as to whe re a partic ular item comes from, th en their suppl iers could possibl y be contact ed for the info r mation.  The source of each item at each outl et can be record ed, as can th e dist ance of that source from UBC.  U sing thi s information, total food mileage can be calculated for each item cate gor y (all apples, for ex ampl e) and ea ch outl et. We feel that it would be easier to track produ ce th an other food items that have been he avil y pro cessed.  Bread, for inst an ce, is ma de up of man y in gredi ents that likel y come from man y dif fer e nt places.  It would be ver y dif ficult , not to mention tim e consum ing, to dete rmine where each of those in gr edients origin ated.  We suggest stud yin g the food outl ets controll ed by th e AMS Food and Bever a ge Depart ment and UBC Food Se rvices, as well as thos e located at the UBC Vill a ge.  Th ese t hree repres ent the ke y food provide rs on campus .   14  Once food milea ge has b een calculated, thes e valu es can then be pres ented to the above food provid ers, as well as the UBC Campus Sustainabil it y Office.  These values can be used to persuade  the AMS Food and Beverage Department, UBC Food Services, and UBC Village of the importance of buying local produce     They can also be used b y the UBC Campus Sustainabil it y Offi ce to support its missi on.  The food milea ge of indivi dual items or item cate gories can hi ghli ght spec ific areas for improvement; the tot al food mileage for each outl e t can provide an indi c ati on of ecolo gical sus tainabil it y.  The focus fo r these food providers shoul d be to lower their food mileage. We feel that the task of measurin g the food milea ge of produc e at UBC sh ould be given to futur e students o f Agricult ural Scien ces 4 50 that are invol ved in th is ongoin g Coll aborati ve Project.  The surve y method des cri bed above could be cond ucted once a yea r, makin g sur e that the students contact the sa me food outl ets each tim e.  At the end of the Project, result s from past ye ars can be combi ned to provide an ove rall view of the food mileage trend of pro duce at UBC and thus of the ecolo gical sus tainabil it y of the UBC Food S ystem.  Social Indicator For our so cial indi cator, we propose to perform a quali tative anal ysis of the level of awa reness and avail ab il it y of nut ritiou s foods on campus .  Quali tative re search su ch as thi s requires a series of surve ys to be pr esented to a random sampl e of th e UBC comm unit y.  We propose that these surve ys shoul d be conducted twi ce ye a rl y, with the Agricultural Scienc es 25 0 class surve yin g people in Decembe r and the 450 class doing the same in April .  Those surve yed in Decembe r should be differ ent from t he people surve yed in April .  Adv e rtisements for int ere sted participants could serv e as a moderatel y randomi z ed sample for t he stud y, sinc e the sampl e would need to include all discipl ines.   After the data is coll ected and anal yz ed, some recomm e ndati ons could be present ed to food outl ets or for developm ent of comm unit y nutrit ion programs.   15  Empowerin g people wit h the knowled ge to make i nformed food choices le a ds to impro ved nutrit ional status of the comm unit y and increas ed producti vit y an d well being, also lessening the risk of the onset of chronic dis ea ses.  An indi cati on of a sustainable societ y would be seen in a risi ng tr end in the aw ar eness of nutriti ous foods. Modi fi cati ons could be made afte r each ye ar of stud y.  Potential ex ampl es ma y include pro grams impl e mented to increas e the awaren ess of nutriti ous fo ods.  Season -specific cl asses could als o be held at various time s of the year.  At the end of the Coll aborati ve Project, an overall trend shoul d be establi shed and evaluat ed.  If there is a significant inc reas e in the awa reness o f nutrit ious foods, then a move towa r ds sust ainabili t y has been ac hieved.  An unch an ged le vel of awa ren ess would reflect a mov e awa y from sustainabil it y, prompti ng perh aps anot her stud y or seri es of que sti onnaires and surve ys to determi ne the reason fo r nutrit ionall y-p oor food choic es.  A sign ificant increas e in the aw aren ess and bett er food choices would indi cate a move to ward a mor e sust ainable comm unit y.   Economic Indicator S ince the affo rdabil it y of food dictates over all foo d avail abil it y and well ne ss of a population, especiall y for a typic all y low -income s tudent population, it is important to measure the economi c av ail abil it y of food throu gh price compa rison. In order to comp are th e cost of food betwe en grou ps and to asce rtain the avail abil it y of nutriti ous food over less nut rient -d ense choic es, a bas eli ne data coll ecti on invol ving price comparis on would be requir ed.  An indi c ator of sust ainabili t y would be an additional survey that measured the percentage of UBC residents’ income spent on deemed nutrit ious food and on the total amount of food over a defined peri od of time, such as a sem ester or ter m. A quanti tative anal ysis of our economi c indi c ator will be performed.  A descriptiv e stud y will be performed b y selecti n g a group of indivi duals at random that we beli eve to be repres entative of the UBC population.  To mini miz e error in t his descriptiv e stud y, a la r ge population sho uld be surve yed, inclu ding a fair and randomi z ed repres entation of student s, staff, fa cult y, and resid ents.  Selecti on bias would be minim iz ed by dist ributi ng the surv e ys in diffe rent parts of campus .   16  The data could then be compared on an annual ba sis and sust ainabili t y cou ld then be indi cated b y a decr eas e or maint ained nutrit ious food perc enta ge, whils t the tot al percent a ge of in come spe nt on food would decr eas e.  This would indicate a gr eate r awar eness amon g consum ers, produce rs, and reta il ers about the importanc e of nutrient -dense food choi ce av ail a bil it y and af fordabil it y – perhaps le ading people to seek out suppl iers who produce agricult ur al products loc all y, with dec reas ed transp ortation overhead, and with a gr e ater comm unit y conscien ce, since the ben e fits of a well -fed population are se en throu gh incr eas ed producti vit y and vit ali t y.  DESCRIPTION OF OUR MODEL Using all of this informat ion – our problem defini ti on, value assum pti ons, sust ainabili t y definiti on, vision of a sust ainable an d an unsust ainabl e UBC Food S ystem, map, sustainabil it y indi cators, and res ear ch desi gn – we have developed a “Sustainability Master Metre”.  It is shown in the Appendix.  Our gauge -st yle metr e was d esigned with the objecti ve of readin g ease and the clea r disti ncti on betwe en ecolo gical, s ocial, and economi c sust ainabili t y progress.  How ever, be yo nd indi vidual indi cator measures, reali t y di ctates that the various fac ets that we hav e chosen to measu re are closel y int errelated and thi s is demons trated b y th e superi mpos ed sum of each, for a tot al measure of sust ainabili t y which ma y be refe renc e d against prior assessmen ts. It is important that a mod el is clear, eas y to read, and concise, which is wh y we const ructed a metre that resembl es a gau ge.  It is si mi lar to those which mea sure fami li ar quanti ti es such as gas co nsum pti on and power outflow that we obse rve and receiv e information from on a dail y basis . The measures of the indicators of sustainability are also reflected in the metre’s gr adual colour chan ge from “unsustainable” through various stages to “sustainable”.  Red suggests the need fo r cha nge, whils t the transit ion through or an ge, yell ow, and green to blue mirrors the gradu al steps toward the goal of sustainabil it y. As independent sus tainab il it y m e asures ma y chan ge ac cordin g to the result s of each assessment in either increasin g or decr easin g quanti ti es, the meter rep r esents these shifts .  Indivi dual ecologi cal, social, or economi c s ustainabil it y pro gress wil l be refle cted   17  on each lev el of the gau g e, whils t the tot al avera ge measur e is overlaid on the gau ge, refle cti ng the inte rdepen denc y of the various re al ms of the enti re pictur e of sustainabil it y.  CONCLUSION Designin g a model to assess the sust ainabili t y of the UBC Food S ystem wa s no eas y task.  We ar e proud of our ef fort and feel that it represents a first step, however small , towards a  bett er understandin g of the S yste m and its structure and fu ncti on.  Our model is a much needed starti ng point that will enable the Facult y of Agric ult ural Sciences, UBC Campus Sustainabil it y Office, UBC SEEDS program, AM S Food and Beve ra ge Dep artment, an d UBC Food Se rvices to work together to reali z e their own shared visi on of a sust ain able UBC Food S yst em. We consider our model very much a “work in progress”.  As a d yn ami c col lecti on of thoughts, ideas, and be li efs, it is flex ibl e and can be adapted and refined as needed.  It can be used over and ove r again, eithe r on its own or in conjuncti on with the models developed b y our peers in thi s the third and final cour se of the Land, Food , and Comm unit y seri es.  Our model is our mark that we leave behind for futu re gen erati ons of students, staff, fa cult y, and residents who shar e in our conce rn for th e sust a inabili t y of the UBC Food S ystem.    REFERENCES 1 - Mu rd y, W.H.  1993.  Anthropocentrism : A Mo dern View.  Pages 302 -3 10 in S. Armst rong and R. Botz ler, Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence , McGraw Hill , Toronto.  2 - Li eblein, G., Francis, C.A., and Torjusen, H.  2001.  Future Int erconn ect ions Amo ng  Ecologic al Farmers, Pro c essors, Market ers, and C onsum ers in Hedmark C ount y, Norwa y: Creati ng Sha red Visi on.  Human Ecology Review 8(1): 60-71.  3 - Gliessman, S.R .  1998.  Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture.  Ann Arbor Press, Chelsea.  4 - UBC Food Services.  1997.  Missi on Statement.  Avail able at: htt p:/ /www .foodserv.ubc .ca .  Last acc essed: Mar c h 18, 2003.  5 - Hart, M.  2000.  Indic ators of Sustainabil it y Tr aini ng Course.  Avail able at:   18  htt p:/ /www.sust ainablemeasures. com/ Traini n g/ In dicators/i ndex .htm l .  Last acc essed: Mar ch 2, 2003.  6 - Kloppenbur g, J ., Hen drickson, J., and Stevenson, G.W .  1996.  Com ing int o the  Foodshe d.  Agriculture and Human Values 13(3): 33-42.  7 - Hef fern an, W.  1999.  Consol idation in the Food and Agricult ure S yste m.  Avail able a t: htt p:/ /www.farmcrisis.n et/ studi es /heffern an.htm .   Last acc essed: Mar ch 25, 2001.   8 - Kloppenbur g, J ., Lez ber g, S., De Maste r, K., Stevenson, G.W ., and Hendrickson, J .   2000.  Tasti ng Food, Tas ti ng Sustainabil it y: Defin ing the Att ributes of an Alternati ve Food S ystem with Competent, Ord inar y People .  Human Organization 59(2): 177 -186.  9 - Earl y, R.  2002.  Food Ethi cs: A Decisi on Maki ng Tool fo r the Food Ind ustr y. International Journal of Food Science and Technology 37: 339-349.  


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items