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What does “eating sustainably” mean? To put it simply, it means to eat food that gives us adequate nutrition and energy, with the least amount of negative impact, or footprint, on our earth. This includes being mindful of the safety and quality of our air, soil, water, and people. From the moment a seed is planted and grown to the time it is harvested, delivered, and purchased, creating a meal involves more than what you see on your plate. Your food does more than satiate you; it impacts the health of farmers and workers, local and global agricultural land, the food industry, and the climate. It is important to be be aware of the story of our food since it is the thing that nourishes us and connects us to the earth.
Factors to consider
When selecting food to purchase and eat, there are several factors to consider:
- Sustainable Farming & Welfare. How was it naturally grown in season or out-of-season with excessive pesticides? How was the animal raised? In a cage or roaming free? Humanely with proper feed?
- Transportation. How did the food travel to you--by truck, train, plane? Is it local (located within a 150-mile radius) or from another continent?
- Workers' Rights. Do the farmworkers receive a fair, living wage? Do these people have safe working conditions?
- Habitat and Environment Protection. What does the environment (from which your food originated) look like now? Is the land still arable? Were trees chopped down? Was that part of the ocean degraded or overfished?
- Waste and Packaging Reduction. How was your food packaged? Minimal plastic and reusable packaging? What will become of your leftover food? Will you save, donate, or compost it?
It may be difficult to always know the answers to these questions or to make sure you have a completely sustainable meal that is fresh, low-carbon, and fair trade, but the important fact is that you are striving to make knowledgeable and mindful decisions about your food. To learn more about sustainable food, you can read The Kindling Trust definition or this SF Gate Home Guide that lists multiple definitions.
Eating on campus
Eating on or near campus already lessens your footprint: Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) provides SCU’s Dining Services and is a pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies. You can also start eating more sustainably by purchasing produce from Santa Clara’s Franklin Square Farmers’ Market or through the Forge Garden's Friday Farm Stands. Buying from the Farmer's Market can guarantee that the food is in season and local (as it brings together farmers in the area), and lessen your chance of major pesticides or chemicals on your fruits and vegetables.
SCU Dining Services by Bon Appetit recognizes the water embedded in the food we serve:
- The highest volume product with the highest water impact is beef, followed by other animal products
- Rice, pasta, and bread also have water impacts
- While some fruits and vegetables are higher in water use than others, all are low relative to animal products
Additionally, Dining Services are committed to doing the following in light of the recent drought restrictions:
- Encourage guests to make low-water food selections
- Promote vegetarian and vegan choices as low water options
- Using only low flow spray nozzles and drip systems throughout the facility
- Ensuring dish machines are only running when necessary, steamers are turned off when not in use, etc.
Food & Agribusiness Institute: Leaders for a Better Future
What is the FAI?:
Since 1973, Santa Clara’s Food and Agribusiness Institute (FAI) has paved the way for over 650 MBA graduates and provided many excellent opportunities for the rest of the student body on campus. Playing an integral part of the Leavey School of Business, FAI works hard to expose and inform Santa Clara students about the sustainable solutions agribusiness firms are implementing into our modern farming practices. In order to reach out to both its MBA students and Santa Clara undergraduates, FAI offers a variety of opportunities for students to get involved.
For the SCU’s MBA students, FAI offers several “enrichment programs” to both connect students to the wider food and agribusiness industries and to give them a better understanding of their future goals. These enrichment programs manifest themselves through FAI’s internship program and mentor program. Using their extensive network of contacts, FAI provides MBA students with a platform to test their knowledge from the classroom in the real world. By participating in an internship with an agribusiness firm, students often find an area to further hone their focus, which can offer future job opportunities. Here on campus the FAI’s mentor program pairs MBA students with industry executives, alumni and other FAI faculty. Focused on career and academic choices, these mentors provide an insider perspective to students who wish to best prepare themselves for the industry’s demand. More information on these programs can be found by following this link.
For the larger campus community, the FAI extends its influence in both Santa Clara academics and extracurricular activities. Students still unsure about their pathway and looking to supplement their knowledge in sustainability should consider the Food, Hunger, Poverty, and Environment Pathway (FHPE). FAI offers two courses in this pathway, BUSN 150: Feeding the World and BUSN 151: Food, Hunger, Poverty, Environment Immersion Preparation, to help students gain a better understanding of the relationships between, hunger, poverty, food production and consumption, and the environment. Here at Santa Clara, our constant exposure to an ample supply of food and water may often create a complacent mindset that many developing countries around the world do not have the luxury to experience. FAI helps us remember the realities involved with feeding our world and provides insight into the value of upholding sustainable agricultural practices.
Upcoming Immersion Opportunities:
In recent years, the FAI has begun to take Santa Clara students around the world to explore and experience the challenges and sustainable solutions farmers have faced and implemented. This year in September, FAI is taking students to Cuba on a 14-day immersion trip. The trip is supplemented by a 2-quarter Business 151 course to examine the agriculture, business, history, and culture of Cuba before the students depart. Through this immersion, FAI hopes to explore a country where inputs, such as chemical fertilizers and industrial agriculture, were suddenly withdrawn with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Cuba’s sustainable, organic, and permaculture-based system has created a robust agricultural economy based on growing food sustainably, in urban settings, and with natural inputs.
The two-week visits include tours of urban farms, research institutes, rural cooperatives, and an agrarian university. In addition, conversations and lectures with farmers and researchers will help students understand how Cuba emerged from the devastation following the Soviet Union collapse and how they have created a system that has been replicated in many other parts of the world. Although the application deadline for this trip has passed, more information on these immersions and updates for future immersions can be found here.
Upcoming On-Campus Opportunities:
As the drought continues to impact California, the FAI has taken action to provide Santa Clara students and the greater community, with a Drought Series. This series has brought to light the impacts of the current drought on farmers, resource managers, and food bank operators as well as discusses potential solutions including water conservation solutions and alternative irrigation techniques. The final speaker, Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Agriculture, will be coming to Santa Clara on May 28th to discuss the her task force that has been assemble to address the drought. RSVP here. For more information on the remaining April speakers of this series , please check out the FAI website.
For students looking to get involved and gain more knowledge in sustainable initiatives on campus and around the world, FAI provides an excellent jumping off point. Their connection to Silicon Valley agribusinesses, the local community, and agriculture around the world, brings students into the heart of the issues we face in our myriad of complex food systems. For both graduates and undergraduates, FAI brings sustainability and business together for a better future. Feel free to explore their website for more information on upcoming events, internship opportunities, and other programs.
Contributed by Thomas Wheeler '16, Intern, Academic Programs