Evidence-based, Sustainable Decision-Making for Institutional Food Service Providers

Project Team

Greg Keoleian - U-M School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) (PI)
Lesli Hoey - U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Alex Bryan - Michigan Dining
Jeremy Moghtader - U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens

External Partner


Project Summary

Institutional food service providers have an increasing number of production options to choose from in sourcing fresh, local foods, yet very little information is available to support comparisons of the environmental sustainability of such options. For example, if the local production of salad greens in northern climates requires technological supplementation of heat and light, is it actually better for the environment than shipping those greens in from warmer climates? What does environmental sustainability mean in this context, and how can it be measured? More importantly, how can institutional food procurement incorporate environmental sustainability decision-making into an already complex purchasing and logistics setting?

To assist UM Dining Services and other institutional food service providers, this team will conduct a life cycle assessment comparison of the environmental impacts of producing fresh salad greens for UM Dining via four different production methods. This will be complemented by client engagement, stakeholder interviews and focus groups aimed at identifying the general needs of institutional food service providers and perceptions regarding sustainability metrics. Combined, the assessment will provide the evidence base to catalyze the development of a pilot framework and decision-making matrix for use by institutional food service providers in selecting food purveyors that meet sustainability goals.

In collaboration with the Michigan Farm to Institution Network (MFIN), the team will also develop a template version of the UM pilot framework applicable to other food items and institutions and operationalize the framework with MFIN members.

This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2018.