Indiana University Bloomington has made significant progress in purchasing Real Food because of the commitment and hard work from students, staff, faculty and administration. Shifting food purchases to more sustainable foods that are Humane, Ecologically Sound, Fair, and Local (Real) can have major ripple effects through the values-based supply chain and back to the farm. As a major purchaser of food (about $20 million annually), IUB has significant power to change food systems toward more resilient and climate smart.
Purchasing is complicated - IU Dining has a procurement system, the university has a procurement system, and distributors have varying levels of sophistication in their systems to track foods for sale and procure local and sustainable foods.
In the last few years, the long work of the Sustain IU Food Working Group has shifted the analysis of more than 7,000 food purchases from a line-by-line, labor intensive annual project to one that is conducted in real time by IU Dining. Moreover, as a result of a food policy working group in 2020-2021, IU Dining will also track food that is grown and produced in Indiana to demonstrate our commitment to local, Indiana-based businesses.
Some background...For more than eight years, faculty, staff, students and administrators have engaged on increasing the purchase of sustainable food on the IUB campus using the Real Food Challenge (RFC) Calculator. Organized and specialized for university institutional purchasing of food, the RFC is one of a few sustainable food procurement evaluation programs that provide transparency, accountability, and tracking.
Each year, the Food Working Group, supported by Sustain IU and coordinated by undergraduate interns, convenes and works to increase sustainable food purchasing leveraging the human capital of those who are passionate about shifting toward more sustainable foods for campus.
The mission of the Food Working Group (FWG) at IU is to support an environmentally and financially sustainable food system focusing on quality, taste, and nutrition, as well as the social, ecological, and public health costs of food production and consumption.
Since 2013, students at IU Bloomington have been working with the Real Food Calculator to analyze the food purchased for the Bloomington campus. During Spring semester 2016, eighteen students analyzed over 45,000 items procured during the 2013-14 fiscal year by the three campus dining operations: Residential Programs and Services (RPS), Athletics Dining, and Sodexo in the IMU. Over $17.0 million in food expenditures was captured in the analysis, which is estimated to be 91% of the $18.6 million in combined annual food expenditures. Students found 3.83% of food products, or $714,000 qualified as Real Food including: 2.94% local and community-based; 0.06% fair; 0.82% ecologically sound; 0% humane food products.
These figures highlighted opportunities for significant growth. Many things have changed since 2016, to name a few: IU Dining has changed to be 'self-op,' meaning we self-operate our food services for the dining halls, IMU and all campus outlets; Rahul Shrivastov was hired as Director of IU Dining and Dave Tallent as Executive Chef, both bringing significant experience in sustainable food practices; and we have been riding the pandemic and post-pandemic disruptions in food supply chains, shifts in food distribution systems, and price fluctuations and inflation.
Figure. Four year change in Real Food purchasing from FY2017 to FY2020, the most accurate years for Real Food reporting. Each product category has generally increased from FY2017 to FY2019, then either remained constant or decreased for FY2020.
|Total food expenditures
|Real food expenditures
||$1.1 million 6.5%
||$1.9 million 9.7%
||$1.9 million 13.1%
|Sub-categories in Real Food Challenge Metrics in Dollars, % Real (% Total)
|Local and community
||$559,450 66% (3.7%)
||$787,100 73% (4.8%)
||$1.44 million 77% (7.5%)
||$1.25 million 67% (8.8%)
||$305,398 36% (2%)
||$282,431 26% (1.7%)
||$371,081 20% (1.9%)
||$619,438 33% (4.3%)
||$21,942 3% (0.1%)
||$62,066 6% (0.4%)
||$64,394 3% (0.3%)
||$87,847 5% (0.6%)
||$0 0% (0%)
||$0 0% (0%)
||$0 0% (0%)
||$0 0% (0%)
Table. Total and Real food expenditures including sub-categories.