UBC Undergraduate Research

Transitioning Towards a Climate-Friendly Food System at UBC Buchheister, Niku; Ip, Kristy; Koralewicz, Anita; Bal, Jasmine; Stefankowski, Aleksandra


We are all connected by our need for food, water, and shelter. Earth's ability to continue to provide these services is at risk due to current greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels associated with consumption and production of commodities and associated shifts in the global climate (IPCC, 2018). Approximately 25 percent of global GHG emissions (GHGe) come from the agri-food sector (FAO, 2019). Creating a climate-friendly food system (CFFS) is integral in lowering anthropogenic emissions and thereby mitigating climate change while also supporting a more food-secure future. The University of British Columbia (UBC) announced a Climate Emergency Declaration in December 2019, joining a network of over 7,000 other higher education institutions across 6 continents (THE, 2019). At an international scale, these declarations recognize this wicked issue. The UBC community highly supports this declaration, with over 5,000 campus community members participating in the climate strike on September 27th, 2019 and over 1,600 who signed an open letter calling on UBC to declare a climate emergency (Ono, 2019). UBC’s declaration underlines the importance of embedding climate justice into campus policies which include issues such as the health and wellbeing of people and the earth (Ono, 2019). Food climate justice is an integral part of a climate justice system. The current Climate Action Plan (CAP) includes food related emissions as scope 3, thus, they are not considered to be under the immediate control of the University (UBC, 2015b). To realize climate justice, our report informs the UBC CAP 2030 to identify food as an important carbon emission reduction category that is within the control and influence of UBC. Our research purpose is to advise the development of policies and guidelines that accelerate UBC’s transition towards a climate-friendly campus food system and inform future climate action planning processes. To achieve this transition, we determined two research goals: (1) to promote actions which aid UBC’s policies and progression towards a sustainable food system while addressing GHGe reductions, and (2) to define a climate-friendly food system and apply it to the context of UBC's campus food system. Our research objectives were to: (1) identify how other post-secondary institutions are leading in terms of adopting and implementing climate-friendly food policies and guidelines; (2) assess how UBC and UBC Food Services (UBCFS) are aligned with the goals of the current UBC CAP and the recent UBC Climate Emergency Declaration; (3) develop climate-friendly food procurement guidelines to inform UBC Food Services; and (4) develop climate food targets to inform the UBC CAP 2030. We utilized three research methods to achieve our research objectives. To address objectives 1, 2, and 4, we conducted a literature review of current leading climate related food system policies and strategies of other institutions to inform UBC’s CAP 2030 and UBC Food Procurement Guidelines. To address objectives 2 and 3, we reviewed secondary data, including UBCFS categorical food spend from 2016-2018, the 2018 sustainability reports from major food suppliers, and menu offerings from UBCFS dining halls. To address objectives 2, 3, and 4, we collected primary data from interviews of relevant stakeholders. We interviewed stakeholders involved with campus food procurement and sustainability initiatives, as well as climate planning to inform recommendations that are applicable to the UBC context. Based on our findings from the primary and secondary data, we provided two sets of immediate actionable recommendations. The first set of 5 recommendation is oriented towards UBCFS: (1) Increase procurement of foods low in GHGe that are local and seasonal, (2) create a new system to track food-related GHGe on campus, (3) implement nudging strategies and improved rewards programs, (4) continue to train chefs on creating delicious plant-based meals, and (5) pilot a 100% plant-based food outlet. The second set of 4 recommendations aims to inform UBC Campus and Community Planning for the CAP 2030: (1) assess the current GHG impact of the UBC campus food system, (2) create and enforce a climate-friendly food system framework, (3) create an online platform to purchase directly from local producers, and (4) advance community education on food system 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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