HSOC PhD Student: Examining Campus Sustainability and Food Sourcing

During her time as a 2015 Georgia Innovation Intern, Rebecca Watts Hull explored how sustainability initiatives are influencing food purchasing on Georgia’s college campuses.

Hull, a doctoral student in the School of History and Sociology, investigated the impacts of the growing emphasis on “buy local” campaigns, and she used national and state data on campus food purchasing to predict the economic development benefits for Georgia of more aggressive local and sustainable food procurement goals. In addition, she investigated ways that universities, state government agencies, county and municipal governments, and nonprofit organizations can expand these benefits for Georgia farmers.

“Growing student demand for and institutional commitment to sustainability practices on college campuses in Georgia has created pressure for increased transparency in food sourcing,” Hull said. “That pressure already has led to student education about the sources of foods served in the dining halls at some institutions and has prompted several produce distributors to identify and market products from regional farms.”

According to her report, entitled “Campus Commitments to Local and Sustainable Food Procurement: Trends, Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities,” campus local, sustainable food initiatives in Georgia have, to date, resulted in greater procurement from commercial, conventional Georgia farms than smaller farms and ones with sustainability certifications.

Hull concludes the report by recommending that Georgia’s public colleges and universities, state governmental departments, and other stakeholders — including nonprofit organizations — extend regional economic benefits of campus local and sustainable food initiatives by implementing local buying commitments at all public institutions. She also recommends supporting infrastructure, such as food hubs, that can connect smaller and mid-sized farmers, including organic producers, with colleges and universities.

Read more about Rebecca's research and how campus sustainability initiatives can be a powerful force of change here.

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School of History and Sociology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Old Civil Engineering Building
221 Bobby Dodd Way
Atlanta, GA 30332-0225