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Food

A carolina dining services buffetAs awareness increases for the social, economic, and environmental impacts of food production and consumption, groups across Carolina are working to study and promote sustainable food options.

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Teaching

Students at a chicken farm"Eats 101," also known as What's Dinner? Toward Understanding an Endangered Species, is an interdisciplinary honors course that examines the many facets of food. Students explore cultural, social, economic, and environmental sustainability through the lens of historical and contemporary food practices. They learn about food production and consumption, marketing campaigns, the nutritional value of food, and its effect on the biochemistry of the body and on public health. The class cooks and shares meals together, with most of the food coming from within a 50-mile radius. Participants go on field trips to restaurants, farms, gardens, and farmers markets. Several students have been invited to present their research papers at an international conference in Oxford.

In spring 2009, a six-part Sustainable Food Systems Seminar alternated locations between UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. Sponsored by the Robertson Collaboration Fund and administered by the Institute for the Environment, the seminars featured one-hour panel presentations followed by receptions highlighting local food. The series examined food systems as a critical underpinning of stable and sustainable societies. Presenters included local sustainable food producers, vendors, and restaurants, and large food service directors and providers. One of the lectures focused on academic research, education, and outreach. The panelists were from Central Carolina Community College’s Sustainable Agriculture program; N.C. State University’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems; and Carolina’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The classes of 2015 at both UNC and Duke read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals during the summer of 2011.  The book depicts the author's personal connections to foot interwoven with his quest to become a more informed consumer, specifically in relation to the factory-farming and slaughter of animals.

 

Links:
UNC Institute for the Environment - http://www.ie.unc.edu

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Carolina Dining Services

Carolina Dining's new to-go boxesWorking in collaboration with student groups, contractors, and other campus departments, Carolina Dining Services (CDS) is proactively reducing its environmental footprint, expanding its purchases of locally produced food, and raising campus awareness of sustainable practices.

Serving an average of 13,000 meals per weekday during the school year, CDS spends $7 million annually on food and beverages. Twenty-five percent of total purchases are from producers within a 150 mile radius. Meat, seafood, and groceries account for 25 percent of local purchases; milk and dairy account for 20 percent; baked goods 15 percent; and fresh and frozen produce 7 percent.

Fall 2011 saw a completely renovated Lenoir dining ahll, with 200 new seats, an on-site dietician, and new electronic signage to show food offerings' nutritional and allergen information.

In partnership with the student group Fair, Local, Organic Food (FLO), CDS and its contractor have invested considerable effort researching and seeking out local and sustainable food options. Fortunately, two large organic wholesale distributors have started up in North Carolina, greatly reducing the administrative burden associated with buying from individual producers. Wholesalers help to ensure consistently high quality and volume.

Procuring sustainably produced meat at a competitive price is challenging. Local, grass-fed pork and beef sell at a considerable premium and are raised by small-scale producers who may not have access to the type of processing facilities required by large, safety-conscious contractors. Yet the health and environmental benefits of local, pasture-fed meat—and the enthusiasm of students— have resulted in exploratory purchases. Grass-fed beef hamburgers, for instance, are now available two days per week, once at Lenoir and once at the Rams Head Dining Hall. Made-to-order eggs from cage-free chickens are a breakfast option at both Lenoir and Rams Head.

Six seasonally themed, local meals were offered in the dining halls during the 2010–2011 school year. At other times, locally obtained products are highlighted with signage. The Friday Center conference facility has also increased its local purchasing. When booking events through Carolina Catering, it is possible to specify both a local menu and a zero-waste event.

The food sold by vendors on Lenoir’s Mainstreet is not included in the CDS purchasing totals, but last year saw the launch of 1.5.0, a restaurant committed to serving only the best locally-grown ingredients. The barbecue shack sources local, grass-fed pork, raised without antibiotics or hormones, and purchases local, often organic, produce. The Mediterranean Deli purchases all of its produce from local farms.  Coffee shops operated by CDS on-campus promote and serve Fair Trade Coffee.

Resources:
Interactive map of sustainable food options on campus

Links:
Carolina Dining Services - http://www.dining.unc.edu
Fair, Local, Organic Food - http://flofood.weebly.com/

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Research

A student tilling the groundHealth Promotion and Disease Prevention Linking Local, Sustainable Farming and Health is a new Gillings Innovation Laboratory in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Alice Ammerman, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is examining whether “eating local” impacts obesity, the environment, and the economic viability of small farmers and rural communities. Of concern is the current food system, with its heavy dependence on fossil fuels (fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum) for large-scale production and long-distance transport of often high-calorie, nutrient-poor food.

More than 30 researchers, state officials, private sector representatives, and farmers are participating in the study. At UNC, this includes faculty and staff from the departments of Health Policy and Administration, and Environmental Sciences and Engineering, in the Gillings School of Global Public Health; the departments of Anthropology and City and Regional Planning in the College of Arts and Sciences; the Schools of Medicine and Government; the Renaissance Computing Institute; the Institute for the Environment’s Center for Sustainable Community Design; and the Office of Economic and Business Development.

Case studies and documentary photography will explore the agricultural transition in North Carolina as tobacco becomes less economically viable. The loss of small, mid-scale and minority-owned farms in rural communities already facing manufacturing layoffs and plant closures will also be addressed. Researchers will examine the environmental benefits of sustainable farming practices, determine whether there are nutritional and health benefits associated with consuming local food, and conduct an economic analysis of the opportunities and barriers to local food systems. Some of the goals are to develop and test innovative tools to identify market opportunities for farmers and to conduct policy analysis related to local food systems and sustainable agriculture.

Links:
UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention website - http://www.hpdp.unc.edu

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Engagement

Tomatoes grow on the vineThe Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) works in partnership with North Carolina communities to advance human, economic, social, and environmental health. Researchers at the center collect and analyze data from Farm-to-School partners throughout a six-state region of the Southeast. Schools provide a local market for farmers and an opportunity for children to connect personally and intellectually to the source of their food. In partnership with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at N.C. State University and others, HPDP played a lead role in the state’s first Farm to Fork Summit in May 2009. The group is now developing a Statewide Action Plan for Building a Local Food Economy and recently completed a 10-week pilot period on the project. In August 2009, the North Carolina Sustainable Local Foods Policy Council was established by the N.C. Legislature.

Researchers from HPDP are also reaching out to the directors of preschools around the state to introduce more physical activity and healthy menus to young children.

In spring 2009, the first Southeast Regional Food Activist Summit and Conference was held in Chapel Hill and sponsored by the Fair, Local, Organic Food student organization.

In 2010, a team of volunteers broke groudn on the Carolina Campus Community Garden, founded "to provide the space and support to grow vegetables and fruit so that all employees have access to fresh preduce; and to foster a communtiy among staff, students, faculty, and the local residents."  In its first year, the garden produced 2,500 pounds of fresh fruits & vegetables.

Resources:
Tar Heel Guide to Restaurants and Caterers using Local Foods

Links:
UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention website - http://www.hpdp.unc.edu

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