UBC Undergraduate Research

SEEDS program : sustainable food procurement for 2014 Special Olympic Games Li, ShaoRan (Summer); Xin, Meng; Zackowski, Sebastian; Tong, Li; Liao, Ke (Rachel); Shi, Yuan; Liang, Wenbo; Wang, Yuanxi


In collaboration with the UBC SEEDS program, our team sought to engineer a sustainable food procurement plan to implement at the 2014 Special Olympic Games, of which UBC will be the primary host venue. As such, our community partners encompassed members of the Special Olympics Initiatives committee, UBC Food Services, and our SEEDS associates. Efforts to promote appropriate food sourcing and distribution lead us to our initial research question: how could we devise a system to filter through competing vendors, and rank them based on sustainability? This initial objective was complicated by the ambiguity surrounding our individual impressions of what sustainable food procurement entailed. Realization that sustainability was a hypothetical construct that comprised the dynamic end product of a multifaceted endeavor allowed us to revise our original research question; how could we first identify what constitutes a sustainable food product, and then rank vendors accordingly? Discussions with our community partners provided insight into their project goals, and introduced us to the practices already in place to optimize environmental preservation. Together we concluded that a practical strategy to define sustainability involved integrating a combination of pre-existing certification standards with the location of production. We made the assumptions that locally produced foods reaching a higher degree of certification would be more sustainable than international products below those same standards. Thorough literature review would thus comprise the majority of our research methodology. We divided food into eight separate categories, then proceeded to identify the various certifications, as well as a few nutritional recommendations associated with each ingredient. The physical product we developed was a set of food procurement guidelines, dividing each category into three distinct columns of sustainability. The central level parallels the preexisting standards of UBC Food Services, while the lowest level includes all the foods below. Locally-produced foods reaching top levels of certification populate the highest ranking in the guidelines, serving as the target for vendors to strive for. While our classifications cover a broad range of ingredients, the diversity of the global food system as well as the uncertainty of specific distributors complicated our ranking system. Though we may not have universally accounted for all potential foods, we hope that our general guidelines may still identify vendors with sustainable products for the upcoming games and future events, and provide a template for investigations into further raising the standards of campus sustainability.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.”

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