UBC Undergraduate Research

Fostering a Biodiverse Food System : Purchasing Baseline and Guidelines Stone, Anna; Boxold, Lauren; Smith, Cougar; Larsen, Joshua


The following report was conducted by members of LFS 450 Group 3 Project Team, as a part of the UBC Food Systems Project (UBCFSP), which was initiated by the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and the Seeds Sustainability Program. Our project is titled, “Fostering a Biodiverse Food System: Purchasing Baseline and Guidelines''. Our clients are Brad Vigue and Darren Clay of UBC Food Services (UBCFS), and Laura Arrango of the SEEDS Sustainability Program. Our project is a part of dedicated action steps taken by UBC towards advancing climate action at UBC. In response to the recent Climate Emergency Declaration, UBC realized the need of a Biodiverse Food System Action Team work on identifying and mitigating issues surrounding biodiversity in the campus food system. Our project specifically seeks to inform and align UBC’s food procurement with their values in supporting biodiversity at various scales, and accelerate a transition to a biodiverse-friendly campus. Our main project goals are to identify gaps and opportunities for UBCFS, provide clear purchasing guidelines, and increase overall communication about biodiversity on campus. Our key project objectives are to identify exemplary practices at other universities on biodiversity and to identify opportunities to increase biodiversity in UBC’s purchasing guidelines. This project utilized a Community-Based Action Research (CBAR) methodology in order to meet the goals and objectives of our research. Our research methods included primary and secondary data collection and utilized stakeholder interviews, analysis of past purchasing data, and a landscape scan. For our primary data collection method, we chose to conduct virtual interviews with key stakeholders, biodiversity experts, and others at UBC working on biodiversity initiatives. Our goal was to better understand UBC’s present impact on biodiversity as well as promising areas of future research. Interviews took place via Zoom and were recorded on the application, and then transcribed using the software, Otter.ai. Our first method of secondary data collection involved analyzing past UBCFS purchasing data to identify trends. To accomplish this, we utilized Excel documents from our clients which provided in-depth food purchasing data from the years 2017-2020. Our second method of secondary data collection included a landscape scan to identify best practices that farms can implement to promote biodiversity, what other institutions were doing to improve biodiversity, find biodiverse-friendly substitutions that UBCFS could make to improve the biodiversity of their menus and to find certifications schemes that validate the efficacy of biodiversity-friendly growing practices. Our research results showed that there are some promising purchasing practices taking place at other institutions that UBC can learn from, including utilizing certifications and eco-labels, and following the 24 Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus from Menus of Changed, developed by The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Other results included the opportunity UBC has to purchase higher quantities of local food, as well as moving away from purchasing large amounts of meat and dairy products, which still occurs at UBC. Another result is the sheer complexity of the term biodiversity, which came up through our need to widen our landscape scan from the term “biodiversity”, to include more general terms. This provides space for increased education for the UBC community on what biodiversity is and why it is important if and when biodiversity-friendly food becomes implemented in UBCFS. In our discussion, we explore the need to implement more plant-based, organic foods at UBC, as well as the importance of purchasing from farms that are utilizing polycultures and other complex agricultural systems. Additionally, we provide details of the efforts by other institutions to implement biodiversity-friendly guidelines. We have split our recommendations into three categories: short term, medium term, and long term. This will help UBCFS dictate which items to focus on in the immediate future, and which items will take more time to implement. Our short term recommendations include recommendations for purchasing guidelines, promising certifications schemes, and menu substitutions that UBCFS could implement. This includes implementing certification schemes such as the Kamut certification, and substitutions such as wakame seaweed in place of traditional greens. 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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