Farm to College: Reducing Food Miles through Direct Purchasing

EPA Grant Number: SU831863
Title: Farm to College: Reducing Food Miles through Direct Purchasing
Investigators: Karp, Caroline , Ayars, Ken , Brown, Katherine , Dunleavy, Virginia , Fratantuono, Peter , Hazeltine, Barrett , Hill, Allen , Jacoby, Karl , Kushner, Diana , Page, Talbot , Paul, Skip , Schmitt, Annie , Segal, Jane
Current Investigators: Karp, Caroline , Ayars, Ken , Brown, Katherine , Doerner, Judy , Dunleavy, Virginia , Hazeltine, Barrett , Jacoby, Karl , Page, Talbot , Schmitt, Annie , Ward, Harold
Institution: Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 15, 2004 through September 14, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Food systems geared toward a global economy concentrate agricultural production into specific geographic areas. Mechanized, large scale agriculture leads to soil exhaustion, loss of crop diversity, contamination of water bodies by pesticide and fertilizer run-off and excessive fossil fuel use. The magnitude of these problems warrants corrective measures. As the distance between point of production and consumption increases, the consumer is less able to comprehend the meaning of agricultural impacts. More, the consumer is less able to appreciate the aesthetic, social and personal benefits of locally grown foods. Reconnecting local farmers to urban residents is an effective way of dealing with a magnitude of environmental problems, especially the excess number of vehicle miles used in the transportation of food.

Our student team will create a system for direct purchasing between Brown University Dining Services (BuSD) and local farms. Currently, edible crops are shipped out of state because of historical trends, market forces and convenience. We aim to recreate local purchasing infrastructure. We will design computer software to facilitate the purchasing and distribution process. This software will tally and promote the number of vehicle miles "saved" through local food purchases. This software will also offer the University a convenient way of purchasing foods directly from local producers.

We will integrate goals of community development, community food security, farm viability and sustainable agriculture through direct food purchases. Direct purchasing gives the farmer a fairer share of the food dollar, increasing farming profitability. Production geared around a local food economy also encourages crop diversity. Most importantly, decreased transportation means a reduction in fossil fuel use, packaging and food waste. Reconnecting consumers to the production process increases the likelihood of an internalization of the ecological impacts of agricultural production. We will publicize a comparison in the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) between local and imported foods. This campaign will be developed based upon data gathered by an introductory environmental studies class (ES11).

Results will be measured by a calculation of food miles and vehicle emissions saved through local purchasing. This amount saved will be compared to an approximation of the number of VMT in the previous school year. We will translate this amount into gallons of gasoline as well as carbon emissions reduced. We will calculate the total weight and variety of local food purchases for the fall semester and use this in setting goals for next season. The student body, BuDS employees and participating farmers will also be interviewed. Interviews will be compiled into an end-of-season report.

Information on the environmental benefits of local food production will be displayed in dining halls, across campus and around the city of Providence. Posters, ads in the student newspaper and fruit stickers will help to expose the project. The broadcasting of VMTs saved through our program will be publicized beyond the walls of the University. Outside agricultural organizations will assist us in the implementation and publicity of the project.

Supplemental Keywords:

agriculture, decision-making, food service industry, air emissions,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, Agricultural Engineering, environmental accounting, sustainable development, direct purchasing, computer models, decision making, environmental sustainability, cost benefit, food transportation, agriculture, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, environmental education, product environmental impact

Relevant Websites:

Project Description

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report