College, and education in general, is the process of discovering truth. Singer John Legend mentioned recently at the 2009 University of Pennsylvania Commencement that what we need more in this world are people who are brave enough and equipped with the resources to discover truth. In a world of economic, political, war-charged, internet, and real-estate challenges, Legend noted, I resonate with him that we need it more than ever. There are people beyond UPenn who are discovering the truth. And within the realm of discovering the truth, there are a multitude of ways to do so in the honest reciprocity of other humans who are discovering similar truths and are willing to offer their truth-finding process. Being in education, I have learned the process of being intrigued with a certain phenomena, offering a question of relevance, hypothesizing results, determining methods to test that hypothesis, providing the methods' results, discussing the validity of the methods, and offering conclusions to the question dealing with the phenomena. These conclusions change. As such, questions, methods, results, and conclusions evolve over time.
When I was writing the piece, I was seeking truth. I wanted to understand the food systems at place. I wanted to understand who was in charge of what, where things were flowing to and from what sources, what dynamics were playing out, and why things happened the way it did. I turned to the internet, to books, to articles, and to policies that I could get access to. The piece was a culmination of my research, my thoughts, and my questions.
Two challenging aspects about being in academia are validating sources and offering sound conclusions to a multitude of perspectives. It is about making an argument and offering sources that validate that argument. It is about understanding the complexity of an issue in a variety of viewpoints and learning how to formulate conclusions for further insight, inquiry, and thought. I've learned through this process that because sources change and information evolves, conclusions do as well. However, to offer more sound conclusions, these sources and data need to be transparent, open for dialogue, and peer-reviewed. My intention with the article was to bring together a variety of viewpoints, organize and reference them as they were, and offer concluding statements and further questions.
Was it fair to write that Aramark, "this single source" is "a monoculture of sorts"? Maybe not. Was it fair for me to conclude that "all the dots don’t line up right" when I referenced unjust labor practices at UCI and Duke University but recognized that Aramark was number one in its industry in 2006's Fortune list? I don't recall any harsh language in the first analysis of my piece.
I recently found out by our Aramark resident manager that the contract that I used as reference for writing was void in 2007. At the time, the contract thereafter was not available online. According to the manager, I was referencing an incorrect contract. In discovering honest truth, I should have went to the UCI Dining offices, and asked in person. I didn't. In a world of electronic referencing as more correspondence is done technologically and through the internet, I recognize the challenge of not being electronically transparent. As I move forward, I recognize the need to balance and weigh my conclusions in the world of the internet and the world of reality.
I re-read the "intriguing notes" in the contract that I referenced at the time, and I see three categories. First, I referenced points in the contract and had questions. I did so in #1 (ecological impact), #3 (financial commitment). Nothing else. No thoughts. Just questions. Secondly, I referenced points in the contract, and offered a vision for more inclusion for a sustainable food system. In #5 (training employees) and #6 (choice of pricing), I referenced the need to involve all stakeholders (employee training and student choice of price) in these visions. The last category involves writing that I am now not proud of in a piece that I intended to be sound. In point #2, in which I listed the minimum food standards, I wrote my metaphor of "night and day" to describe the current food standards and what I envisioned to be better food standards. In point #4 (eating utensils), I denounce disposible plastic eating utensils because that's my vision of a sustainable food system. My analysis of points 2 and 4 offer personal convictions and emotions. In a piece intended for sound references and conclusions, I should have left those out and offered a deeper, more evidence-based analysis. I meant academic, but I turned editorial. I wronged.
In the final part of the piece, I wrote about two other policies, the UC Food Service Policy and Aramark's Green Thread. I reference them. I end the piece with a question.
I've learned from this piece, in particular, that language is important when writing a sound, evidence-based paper. How I frame references, citations, and quotes is integral to the process of understanding and academic development. I also learned the need to balance electronic referencing with referencing in person. I do want to note that for me a student trying to understand and seek truth, information and data needs to be available and transparent for me to analyze, re-study, and examine. In an academic world in which students are referencing more online, subject matters and infrastructures that deal with student interest should be aware of such behavior. I welcome comments, feedback, and information. My intention was not to criticize people. My intention was to understand the systems and the people involved in those systems.
I have learned and grown since then. I have been and am a UCI Dining intern and fellow, understanding the challenges and opportunities with institutional food procurement and sustainability. Instead of working against, I have actively listened, discussed, and collaborated with UCI Dining staff through academic scholarship, participatory education, and inclusiveness. Labor, food standards, utensils, and ecology have been evolving discussions at UCI. UCI Dining has made some great progress in the last two years toward sustainable food practices:
trayless dining in residential dining halls
an organic salad bar in Mesa Commons
elimination of some polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) in residential & retail locations
fair trade coffee offered at Starbucks and the Cyber A Café
organic eggs at all dining locations
reusable tableware at residential dining locations
unbleached napkins at all residential and most retail locations
fair trade and organic products offered at Zot ‘n Go
educational events about waste reduction
vegetarian and vegan options at all dining locations
dining hall light conservation
donation of leftover pastries to Feeding America (formerly known as America's Second Harvest)
recycling at all dining locations
Students are collaborating with UCI Dining on a pilot sustainability assessment of food procurement using the Real Food Calculator, a metric devised by the Real Food Challenge. UCI Dining, in addition to over a dozen other spnosors, have worked with students to organize a spring educational series on food sustainability. The UC system is moving forward with a Sustainable Food Service Policy.
Regardless of whether an individual is a student or not, there are challenges that we face and are trying to overcome in our food system. The questions I raise in my piece were intended for open discussion, honest dialogue, and greater transparency. Behind the businesses, corporations, and institutions, there are people with abilities to communicate, listen, brainstorm, and solve those challenges. These efforts from UCI Dining staff, administrators, and students mentioned above are intended for a food sustainability. These challenges bring up questions for people to make concerted efforts toward a sustainable food system.
I resonate with John Legend's words of the world needing people to discover truth. There are people who seek truth. There are people who act. I choose to do both. Seeking truth and acting on it can invoke conflict, distress, and barriers to the systems involved. Seeking truth and acting on it can also bring people together, increase active and civil inquiry, listening, and communicating, and inspire problem-solving. I choose to do the latter.
Five summers ago, University of California Irvine Dining & Hospitality signed a multi-million dollar contract with Aramark, one of the largest national and international food service companies, to extend operations from pre-existing residential dining halls to all retail dining locations except for one coffee cart near the Physical Sciences. Aramark “provides a range of food, facility, and other support services to approximately 500 colleges and universities”, allowing for a single source for development of dining and facility management. This single source, a monoculture of sorts, would soon ripple challenges to all stakeholders in our food system - the environment, food producers, consumers, animals, and communities.
Reading over the 28-page document, the agreement is between the “University” (Regents of the University of California) and the “Contractor” (Aramark Educational Services). The contract spans for nearly a decade from August 15, 2004 to June 30, 2014. Within this span, UCI Dining only handles with one contractor as opposed to individual businesses, co-ops, consortiums, or farmers, as they did pre-2004. According to a 2006 article “Aramark: The New Bully on Campus” in UCI's Jaded Magazine, Ray Giang, then-ASUCI Executive President of Administrative Affairs, noted that “along with the benefits of consolidation fiscal stability and sheer convenience Aramark provided, ‘to be honest, the University gets a bigger kickback, too.”
Hing notes the unjust labor practices that Aramark has had a reputation for, and early looks into the contract have been tested and challenged. “Many full time Aramark employees qualify for public assistance and rely on Medi-cal, low-income housing, and other social programs” in which they are “not afforded the same rights as UC service employees” and prohibited from “organizing or unionizing for higher wages”. Under Section 4A of the contract, “all such employees are employees of the Contractor”. On January 17, 2006, UCI students rallied for insource service workers. According to the American Federaion of State, County, and Municipal Employees, “student protestors circled the flagpoles at noon, waved picket signs and heatedly changed their disapproval of the maltreatment of UCI Irvine’s minority workers.” Two months later, Chancellor Michael Drake began dialogue for an in-sourcing agreement for Food Service and Grounds Workers.
Labor challenges have also been seen not only at UC Irvine, but at other colleges, as well. At Duke University, Minnesota Daily writer John Hoff chronicled the difficulties universities have with contracting to externals food management companies like Aramark. Their Dining Services Director, according to Hoff, “admit[ted] bring[ing] Aramark to campus was a mistake.” These mistakes included poor and tasteless service, high food prices, and apathetic responses to demands. From 2004-2006, the student government and the Student Dining Advisory Committee “voted ‘no confidence’ in Aramark.”
Aramark was ranked number one in its industry in FORTUNE magazine’s 2006 list, consistently ranking as “one of the two three admired companies in its industry as evaluated by peers and industry analysts."
Sympathizing or not, all the dots don’t line up right.
There are some intriguing notes about UCI Dining's contract with Aramark.
1. In Section A (General Provisions), M (Ecological Issues), the contract states that “The Contractor is encouraged to be away of the legitimate concerns of the campus community regarding the preservation of the ecological balance in nature, and the impact of the Contractor’s business on the environment.” How is this measured? While one may seem that business is good as any each day, are there imbalances caused by the Contractor?
2. Aramark must employ the following food standards (Section 3A):
Beef – USDA inspected, Grace Choice
Ground Beef – Shall not have a fat content to exceed 22% of its weight
Poultry – USDA inspected, Grade A
Fish and Seafood – Fish must be a nationally distributed brand, packed under continuous inspection by the U.S. Department of Interior and any other applicable regulatory agencies.
Eggs and Dairy Products – USDA inspected, Grad A.
Produce – Number 1 quality.
Canned Fruits, Fruit Juices and Vegetables, USDA inspected, Grade A Fancy
All Other Food Products – Must be of comparable quality to the items specified above.
No veal products may be served.
The Contractor is encouraged to avoid meat products derived from animals raised in the South American Continent.
"No veal products"? "South American Continent"? Where did they get that from? If you were put this last side-by-side to one that contains certifications like "Grown or Raised within 250 miles from Campus", "Fair Trade Direct Purchasing", "USDA Organic", "Certified Humane", and "Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Guide 'Best' Choices", it'd be night and day.
3. Within the decade, “ARAMARK shall make a financial commitment to the University in an amount of $2,600,000 (the ‘Financial Commitment’) for food service facility renovations and for the purchase and installation of food service equipment, area treatment, signage, temporary structures for service and other costs associated with the new Student Center and other retail locations for the Campus Food Service Program on Client’s premises.” (Section 3B) Has any of this financial capital been committed to sustainable food efforts?
4. Under Section 3C, “Eating Utensils”, the “Contractor shall provide each customer with high quality disposable plastic eating utensils”, “each customer shall be provided with two napkins”, and “cups and plates may be of either Styrofoam or high quality paper”. Styrofoam and plastic seen in our dining halls are non-biodegradable, causing harm in all levels of the ecocentric food system. While some retail dining locations have provided biodegradable corn-starch to-go containers, it is ostensibly imperative to see it uniform throughout campus. In addition, providing each customer with napkins becomes a behavioral mechanism. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I can do without the large-size bag, three plastic spoons, two paper napkins, and Styrofoam cup and plastic lid for my 16 oz. three-bean chili. I paid for the chili, not the superfluous by-products that will eventually go in the landfill.
5. “The Contractor”, seen in Section 4H, “shall provide adequate training for its employees at all levels of the operations.” As the issue of sustainable food systems increases, it will be important to bring to the table all stakeholders to open the dialogue and become participatory actors in the endeavor.
6. I’m sure students think about and often wonder to change the prices for the food they purchase. Under Section 5B, University members can do just that. Price changes can be proposed in writing by July 31st of each year “with justification and/or documentation which validates the request”. Upon approved validation on August 15, the prices become effective the first of September.
Throughout the past five years, the University of California has drafted "Procedures for Implementation of UC Food Service Policy." UC campuses are mandated to "source from producers who pay minimum wage, or higher, to workers, as required by state and federal law, and who provide safe workplaces, including protection from chemical exposure, and provision of adequate sanitary facilities and rinking water for workers, as required by state and federal law".
Preferences, under a graded criteria, include buying local, certified organic, Certified Humane Raised & Handled (CHRH), sustainable seafood, direct, certified Fair Trade, and worker-supportive food products. The procedures include other measure including waste reduction, water conservation, energy efficiency, and much more.
Aramark has adopted a "Green Thread" into their everyday business operations by reducing their environmental footprint while operationally delivering exceptional results. Within it, they've adopted the following principles, or "pillars": sustainable food, green buildings, waste stream management, responsible procurement, energy & water conservation, and transportation.
Arguments have been made for and against our current contract with Aramark. De facto monopoly. Streamlined processes. Low costs for students. Low-quality food.
Whether or not we realize it, the following is fact. Students pay for their tuition, and students pay for their food. The question becomes a more qualitative one – How does a university, like UC Irvine with 31,000 campus community members, sustain its food system? As you have read, there are three varied standards for food system management at UCI – the original contract, the UC Policy on Food Practices, and Aramark’s “Green Thread”. Which one to follow?
Unless a food revolution on the UCI campus takes place, for which I don’t know the practicality of the matter, how can UCI Dining and Aramark best practice environmentally- and ecologically-sound measures to ensure a sustainable nature of feeding its community?
If you like Eggs and Ham then come to Stimson tonight between 8:00 - 10:00 pm. This is a no charge event for current meal plan subscribers. I don't know any more details because the emails they sent out were extremely vague. My guess is there will be more than just eggs and ham but I could be wrong. And maybe it's green eggs and ham. But regardless of what color the food is, enjoy this nice study break!
My name is Hannah Southworth and my previous post was about the low carbon diet project I am currently working on. I am a non-vegetarian that loves good food but wants to make a difference in the environment. My low carbon diet guidelines can be used at one meal or at all three meals. In my research I looked at how many carbon points my meal was producing. I also looked at the diet of a vegetarian.
After observing both diets for a week and calculating carbon points, I determined that my weekly amount was 26,862 carbon points. The vegetarian had 21,555.5 carbon points. I changed the points by putting in the equivalent of a low carbon lunch (around 800 points) for each day at the results were much lower. My weekly carbon points were 22,204 and the vegetarian’s carbon points were 20, 954. To find out how you can reduce your impact on the environment read the simple guidelines below.
The Low Carbon Diet: Simple Guidelines to Make a Difference
Organic food reduces carbon points because there are no fertilizers involved. Keep in mind that large scale organic companies require other assistance such as traveling long distances to transport bees to pollinate. Importation of grain for cattle is also necessary.
Avoid Processed Food because there are more carbon points for processing and packaging. Also, they use sugar and high fructose corn syrup that are highly processed.
Meat and Dairy are high carbon choices because cows, sheep, and goats naturally emit methane that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. More than half the grain produced in the US goes to feed animals, not people. Herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers used on grains, and agricultural land and water use are put towards livestock.
Free Range Chickens Although chicken has a lower impact than beef, “sustainable” chicken has a 20% greater impact on global warming than the raised broiler birds because they take longer to raise and need to eat more. (According to Adrian Williams from Cranfield University in England)
Out of Season Fruits or Fresh Fish that has traveled long distances. The highest carbon impact comes from air transportation.
Avoid Produce Grown in Hot Houses (unless the hothouses are powered by renewable energy)
You don’t have to become vegan! Just a small sacrifice makes a difference. In the book titled, Six Arguments for a Greener diet there are six arguments made for the low carbon diet:
Less chronic disease and better overall health because fat and cholesterol in dairy and meat products causes around 63,000 fatal heart attacks each year.
Less food borne illness linked to meat and dairy products.
Better soil- livestock and industries related to it such as the dairy industry, have a huge impact on soil and land.
More and cleaner water because livestock uses about 80% of all freshwater in the US.
Less animal suffering.
To make sure you are getting enough protein without eating meat and dairy products there are a lot of other protein rich foods that can provide this lost protein. Whole wheat bread, rice broccoli, spinach, almonds peas, chickpeas, peanut butter, tofu, soy milk, lentils, and kale all are great sources of protein. Avocados have natural fat that can provide for the lost from not eating meat products. When eating out, there are tons of options that are meat and dairy free. Try ordering pizza without cheese, or Chinese mooshu vegetables at Chinese restaurants.