UBC Undergraduate Research

Buying Local for UBC Food Services Dhalla, Sabrina; Polk, Henry; Salinas, Jimena; Southern, Brandon


UBC Food Services (UBCFS) purchases approximately $2 million in produce annually from FreshPoint, a Sysco subsidiary. As part of its Food Vision and Values, UBCFS has a stated commitment to minimize environmental impacts and support sustainable farming practices. While already sourcing a significant portion of their produce locally, UBCFS is considering growing its partnership with Vancouver Farmers’ Market Direct (VFMD) from $32,000 in 2018 to $500,000 by 2022. The purpose of this report is to assess the effect of UBCFS pursuing more locally-sourced produce on social welfare. While there are potential benefits in the form of reduced carbon emissions, much of the literature stresses that local production doesn’t necessarily reduce carbon emissions. The social implications of this potential policy change thus depend on the consumption value placed on local produce by UBC consumers and the change in procurement costs to UBCFS. We find that in the month of October, there are potential cost savings of 11%. We also find a small reduction in the social cost of pollution, with 0.56 tonnes of reduced carbon emissions per month. This is valued at a social benefit of $240 annually. From the perspective of consumers, the economic literature shows that consumers tend to place significantly more value on local food than conventional food. However, due to project limitations, it was not possible to calculate a measure of consumption value specifically for UBC consumers. We thus assume that UBC consumers are the same as the consumers in the Grebitus et al. (2013) study, and place 30-40% more value on local produce. The results of our analysis show that UBC Food Services would be able to switch some of its procurement to VFMD with minimal cost impacts, and potentially with cost savings. We calculated the cost of sourcing produce from VFMD using October 2017 data. We then analyzed the total cost impacts for various cost increase thresholds by individual goods. If the individual good’s percentage change in price was less than this threshold value, then we would switch from Freshpoint to VFMD. Based on the findings of the literature review, we use a threshold of 30%. If UBCFS was to only purchase VFMD goods with a 30% increase in cost or less (in comparison to FreshPoint), the overall monthly savings would be $5,602. This analysis assumes that UBCFS is able to purchase any available produce from VFMD, without capacity constraints. Based upon this assumption, we find that UBCFS could switch a major proportion of their produce spending to VFMD, while generating increased consumer benefits, as well as cost savings and small environmental benefits. 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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