University of Florida
Office of the President
226 Tigert Hall
P.O. Box 113150
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611


March 11, 2020

Dear Dr. Fuchs, Dr. Lane, Mr. Daniels, Food Service Advisory Committee, and Dining Services ITN Committee,  

Despite the interrelated nature of food issues, UF lacks a coordinated and integrated approach to ensuring dining and food service fosters equity, health and sustainability. As a top-tier land-grant university, reaching for Top 5 status, the current opening for the food service contract provides the opportunity to create robust standards for food procurement and labor that approach health promotion, environmental sustainability, economic development, and social justice from a food-systems lens.  Adopting high standards for labor and food procurement would offer an opportunity to unite activities across the institution, from research to operations, and would create town-grown collaborations that meet UF’s goals for being a partner with our broader community and receiving designation as a Carnegie Community Engaged Institution1.  As one of the largest food buyers in our region, increasing demand for local, sustainable, and just food options will create demand that will provide leverage for infrastructure and program development to address these issues, in turn expanding jobs and community-focused economic development. Further, ensuring that these issues are at the forefront of expectations for the dining services contract will help UF meet its commitments with the Association for Sustainability in Higher Education STARS program2 and the Partnership for a Healthier America Campus initiative.3 Adopting rigorous standards will help UF respond to the desires of their target demographic4 their campus community as outlined in the UF Food Service Master Plan Memorandum of Findings Summer 2019 and remain competitive with other top universities that have made commitments for their dining services.5  

In consideration of these factors, we the undersigned ask that the University of Florida include the following specifications in the criteria for the upcoming Invitation to Negotiate for campus dining and food services and the resulting contract with the chosen Dining and Food Services provider(s).  

Supporting Food Services Workers: Vendor will commit that all food service workers, full-time and hourly, shall earn at least $15 an hour6 and the company agrees to remain neutral during any union organizing efforts.7

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Food: Vendor will commit to achieve a 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the most climate change-intensive foods on the menu — meat, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs — within 2 years.8

Supporting Local Farmers and Food Vendors: Vendor commits to increase purchases from local (within 250 miles), small and mid-sized9 family and/or cooperatively-owned farms, ranchers, fisherpeople, food processors, and food vendors by 25% in 5 years. Vendor will commit 1% of contract profits per year to be invested to reduce barriers to local farms, ranchers, and suppliers being able to sell to UF food services with input from the small and mid-sized family and/or cooperatively-owned farms local farms, ranchers, fisherpeople, processors, and vendors10. Vendor commits to have a clear process for conflict resolution between the university and suppliers that both sides understand and agree to observe.

Supporting Farmworkers and Supply Chain Workers: Vendor commits to ensure the health, safety, fair wages, and right to organize for all supply chain workers from the farm to the plate.11 Vendor will require enforcement of labor protection laws, as well as adherence to ILO12, NIOSH13, WPS14, and DOL15 standards for all suppliers. Vendor will increase meaningful16 domestic third-party certified fair or socially just food or meeting criteria in level 3 of Valued Workforce criteria for the Good Food Purchasing Program purchases to 8% in 5 years, and will pay a price premium for these value-added certifications and prices that cover the actual costs to produce and supply the products. Vendor will commit 0.25% of contract profits per year to be invested to reduce barriers to domestic suppliers meeting these certification criteria.17

Providing Transparency and Accountability: Vendor will participate in a nationally-recognized, third-party measurement and verification process18 on progress toward these goals annually, and make the progress report details publicly available. Vendor will commit that any advertisement, signage and/or messaging regarding sourcing will accurately display the level of sourcing from verified sources, as compared to all sourcing (as a percentage), and any messaging pertaining to individual suppliers will be approved by the suppliers prior to use.

With the renewal of their dining services contract, UF has a unique and one-time opportunity to address ethical sourcing more comprehensively to be a leader in higher education.  We thank you for your time and consideration, and request that correspondence with regard to this letter be sent to info@foodjusticeleague.org.

Sincerely, 

Food Justice League: A coalition for more sustainable and equitable food at UF

1 Carnegie Community Engaged Campus – https://www.brown.edu/swearer/carnegie

2 Association for Sustainability in Higher Education STARS Program – https://stars.aashe.org

3 Partnership for a Healthier America – https://www.ahealthieramerica.org/articles/healthier-campus-initiative-146

4 “Today, they [Gen Z] are leading climate change activism and advocating for racial and gender equality. They are concerned with matters of equality and sustainability, and they are looking to retailers to take a stand on such issues. They want to shop in a socially responsible fashion; they want to spend their money on products and services that are responsibly sourced and made. According to a recent study conducted by Greenmatch, 72% percent of Generation Z would spend more money on a product or service if it was sustainably produced. In comparison to millennials, Generation Z is less concerned with loyalty to a particular brand and instead finds loyalty through shared values and commitments.” https://medium.com/tribalscale/how-generation-z-will-shape-retail-3517fbbde9d5    

5 Five of the top 8 public universities have concrete metrics for good food purchases and commitments to increase the percentages over time. UCLA is on target to reach their goal of 20% sustainable purchases by 2020 and in 2017, 18 43% of total produce expenditures in food services were from local and sustainable sources https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/housing/dining-green/; UC Berkeley achieved 20% sustainable food purchases, which include local and fair, in 2020 https://sustainability.berkeley.edu/our-performance/food; U of Michigan reports 17.73% good food purchases in 2017 and a  20% goal for 2025 https://dining.umich.edu/about-us/sustainability/; UNC Chapel Hill achieved 23.6% sustainable food purchases in 2018-2019 including seeking 3rd party certified products that are fair, sustainable and humane, as well as purchasing 28.2% local in 2018-2019 https://dining.unc.edu/sustainability/; UC Santa Barbara currently reports that for their food serves on campus 46% of fresh produce is grown on local farms (within 250 miles), over 25% is organic and/or sustainably grown without pesticides, and 38% of total food purchases are considered sustainable, according to the University of California’s definition of sustainable food https://www.housing.ucsb.edu/dining/earth-friendly-dining.  Also, large land-grant universities are making solid commitments to these goals; Ohio State Univeristy has committed to 40% sustainable and local food by 2025 https://dining.osu.edu/sustainability/local-and-sustainable-food/. Many universities include educational and technical assistance work as part of the commitment to local, sustainable, fair and humane.

6 As of March 2020 $15.39 is considered a living wage for a family with two dependents and two working adults in Alachua County as defined by the MIT Living Wage Calculator – https://livingwage.mit.edu

7 Commits the employer to remain absolutely neutral in the event that employees decide to unionize at the employer’s non-union operations covered by the clause. Commits the employer to immediately recognize the union when submitting union authorization cards signed by a majority of non-represented workers.

8 Natural Resources Defense Council Climate Healthy Eating –https://www.nrdc.org/issues/climate-healthy-eating

9 Using USDA’s farm typology for defining small and mid-sized family farms: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-structure-and-organization/farm-structure/

10 Common barriers include, but are not limited to: high administrative burden of paperwork, bureaucratic requirements, reporting, and  insurance requirements (Fresh Point has a gap insurance model and a technical assistance model that aims to alleviate some burdens for smaller farms), to sell to institutions prior to any assurance of significant sales; delayed payments when limited cash flow for these types of businesses makes it a hardship to wait; history of inequities in opportunities and resources based on race, gender, and other demographic classifications; competing in price with industrial operations that externalize costs; prices that do not cover costs; demand for crops that don’t grow well locally instead of developing eater interest in crops that can be grown easily by local farmers (and are less resource intensive to grow); last minute changes to orders and pricing after harvest; lack of distribution and processing systems that cater to smaller scale operations; no predictable sales that result in farmers selling at a loss or crops rotting in the fields. 

11 Uphold standards as outlined in the Good Food Purchasing Program Valued Workforce criteria – https://goodfoodpurchasing.org/program-overview/

12  International Labor Organization – https://www.ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm

13 Center for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/index.htm

14 Environmental Protection Agency Pesticide Worker Safety – https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps

15 Department of Labor – https://www.dol.gov/

16  “Meaningful” 3rd-party certifications are outlined and valued in the Good Food Purchasing Program standards under the Valued Workforce pillar: https://goodfoodpurchasing.org/program-overview/.  Fair World Project also offers an evaluation of meaningful fair claims: https://fairworldproject.org/choose-fair/certifier-analysis/reference-guide-to-fair-trade-and-worker-welfare-programs-2/, The criteria here are not met by purchases from suppliers outside the US.

17 The Fair World Project’s Reference Guide to Fair Trade and Labor Justice Programs indicates that the 3rd party verified label standards for the Agricultural Justice Project’s Food Justice Certification: https://www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org/en/learn-more/?pane=standards and Fair for Life: https://www.fairforlife.org/client/fairforlife/file/Fair_for_Life/Standars/Fair_for_Life_Standard_EN.PDF include standards that address pricing based on producer costs of production and have producers and/or suppliers certified in the US.
18 The main third-party verifier for higher education is the Real Food Challenge – https://www.realfoodchallenge.org; Good Food Purchasing Program works primarily with K-12 and municipalities, but also works with other sectors, such as higher education – https://goodfoodpurchasing.org ; Healthcare Without Harm has dining service standards for hospitals and health care – https://noharm.org