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Harvard University Implements New Food Standards to Promote Sustainability and Health

In April 2019, Harvard University officially implemented Harvard’s Sustainable Healthful Food Standards. The Standards were led by the Office for Sustainability, with input from a multi-disciplinary faculty committee (including FLPC Director Emily Broad Leib), the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders, and experts in the field.

The Standards are informed by research and designed to measurably increase access for students, faculty, and staff to more sustainable and healthful food offerings. The creation of the Standards focused on multiple issue areas: climate and ecosystems, consumer well-being, education and food literacy, reduction of wasted food, the welfare of animals, and the well-being of communities throughout the value chain. In addition, they aim to enhance food literacy and to optimize the impacts of food choices on people, animals, and the planet. With these standards, Harvard University seeks to:

  1. Align food providers around a shared vision and common set of evidence-based aspirations and principles.
  2. Quantify the environmental and health impacts of the campus food system through reporting.
  3. Optimize the campus food system for well-being, climate and community.
  4. Drive changes in the marketplace through partnerships and by leveraging purchasing power.
  5. Enhance food literacy across the Harvard community, and beyond.

FLPC applauds Harvard University for its commitment to improving the health of its students, staff, and the planet, and was happy to lend its expertise to the development of the standards, and to the creation of the standard for food waste reduction. The Standards recommendations for the reduction of wasted food, based on a research project by FLPC staff and students, include implementation of practices to motivate patrons across the Harvard campus to divert wasted food from the landfill and incineration; reduction of food waste at the source; diversion for consumption by humans (e.g., food donation); diversion for agricultural and industrial uses; composting, land application, and digestion; the creation of a system to track wasted food with report at least twice a year; and the creation of an on-going, formal relationship with a local food donation partner.

FLPC looks forward to supporting the University in implementation of these standards, both through future student research and work, and through Prof. Broad Leib’s ongoing membership in the Standing Food Standards Committee, which will monitor implementation.

Learn more about Harvard’s Sustainable Healthful Food Standards in a recent Harvard Gazette article.