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Research & Initiatives

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Food Waste

Recovery from Supply Chains for Use in Food Donation Programs

The Food and Agribusiness Institute is researching the extent of food losses and waste in northern California, with support from the Bank of America Foundation. The focus of the research will be on identifying the potential to salvage fresh vegetable and fruit produce that currently does not enter the food chain. Previous studies of food waste have highlighted food waste at the retail and consumer level, because the initial concern was to reduce the volumes of waste that were transported to urban land-fill sites. However, fresh produce marketing standards in the USA are stringent, and result in rejection of large volumes of edible food that would be good to eat, but does not fit size, shape, surface blemish or discoloration specifications. Large volumes of sub-standard produce are plowed in or diverted as low-value animal feed. The on-farm losses have largely been ignored in most other studies of food waste.

Prior studies have not attempted to collect data on farm-level losses for individual vegetable or fruit species. FAI student researchers will be exploring the extent to which avoidable loss and waste occurs for the each of the highest volume produce items, such as lettuce, berries, tomatoes, apples, grapes, citrus, potatoes, onions, sweet corn, sweet peppers, broccoli, melons, carrots, stone fruit, avocados, cabbage and spinach. They will contact many growers in Santa Clara and six other nearby counties that are major fresh produce supply sources to obtain data on which to develop their estimates.  Farm visits, phone interviews and targeted questionnaire mailings will be used to ensure that a large sample of farmers are contacted, and that robust conclusions are reached in this study.

The research will focus on developing detailed numerical data on food harvest disposal volumes and percentages for key fresh produce items. This is intended to establish a model for further investigation in other geographies. The purposes are to:

  • identify priority supply shortfalls of fresh produce items at Food Banks,    
  • research the extent of on-farm waste and loss for these items, crop by crop,
  • assess what proportion of this volume is salvageable for human consumption (i.e. currently discarded for cosmetic rather than substantive defects),
  • propose cost-effective methods of procuring salvaged products for needy families.

 


 

Food and Agriculture

Agribusiness 2020 Scenario Analysis

Agribusiness-2020-Scenario-Analysis

This research reports the results of the analysis of surveys and focus groups of a large number of international experts on the future direction of agribusiness industry. Several scenarios are developed and explored. The most likely scenario, called Panta Rei, or Everything Moves, includes increasing effects of global warming, greater concentration of food industry and trade, increasing importance of local food production systems, greater application of biotechnology, more individualization in food consumption, and more food supply problems. To read the full report, visit: http://www.ifama.org/files/IFAMR/Vol%2017/Issue%204/201300396.pdf


Best Breads Looks to Improve Profitability Case Study

The case explores the poor performance of a medium- to large-scale baker as management attempts to determine the root cause of poor performance. Production, supply chain, and financial issues are addressed in the case.


Mi Pueblo Foods Case Study

This case study focuses on a local supermarket chain that targets the Hispanic market. The case explores the opportunities and challenges as management considers whether it should open a store in a food desert that has a high crime rate.


Organic Produce Industry and the Rise of Marketing Order Discontentment

Organic-Produce-Industry

This study provides an analysis of California's organic producers' perspectives on current agricultural marketing orders and the impact these marketing orders activities have on the sale of certified organic produce. Data were collected from interviews, focus groups, and surveys of California organic producers. The top alternatives for change were modifying existing marketing orders to allow for promotion of organic produce and allowing organic growers the freedom to use the funds to promote their organic products. To read the full report, visit http://www.ifama.org/files/IFAMR/Volume%2018/Issue%204/120150004.pdf


Front-of-Package Nutritional Labeling’s Influence on the Perceived Healthiness of Packaged Dinners

In making food purchases, consumers are confronted with product labels that may be inconvenient to access and difficult to interpret. Access to such information is critical to ensure that consumers make healthy food choices. Front of Package (FOP) nutritional labeling allows consumers to be able to quickly interpret the nutritional information of a product and ensure that it aligns with their purchasing preferences. We analyze the ability of different FOP label formats to communicate nutritional information to consumers and measure to what degree these labels influence their food purchasing decisions.


Childhood Obesity Survey

We examine the problem of childhood obesity in the United States from the perspectives of parents, teachers, pediatricians, and dietitians. Members from each of these groups are asked to respond to a series of questions regarding their perception of the seriousness of the problem, the causes of childhood obesity, and potential remedies. The study is unique in that it compares survey results collected in both 2005 and 2014. We expect to report on preliminary findings in the coming weeks.


The Forge Community Garden

Forge-Community-Garden

Santa Clara University's ½ acre organic garden serves the campus as a space for course research, service learning, and sustainable food production. Operating within the Center for Sustainability, the Forge Garden provides a living laboratory for exploration of environmental impacts and social justice surrounding the food system.

The Food and Agribusiness Institute has funded the Forge Garden and it’s Bronco Urban Gardens program since it began in 2009. BUG provides environmental and food justice oriented community-based learning opportunities for SCU students. It improves urban sustainability and environmental and food justice, develops and mentors a new generation of environmental leaders and creates new models and strategies for just and sustainable community development with a focus on a socially just and sustainable urban food system.

To learn more, visit: The SCU Forge Garden


Food Waste Recovery from Supply Chains for Use in Food Donation Programs

The Food and Agribusiness Institute is researching the extent of food losses and waste in northern California, with support from the Bank of America Foundation. The focus of the research will be on identifying the potential to salvage fresh vegetable and fruit produce that currently does not enter the food chain. Previous studies of food waste have highlighted food waste at the retail and consumer level, because the initial concern was to reduce the volumes of waste that were transported to urban land-fill sites. However, fresh produce marketing standards in the USA are stringent, and result in rejection of large volumes of edible food that would be good to eat, but does not fit size, shape, surface blemish or discoloration specifications. Large volumes of sub-standard produce are plowed in or diverted as low-value animal feed. The on-farm losses have largely been ignored in most other studies of food waste.

Prior studies have not attempted to collect data on farm-level losses for individual vegetable or fruit species. FAI student researchers will be exploring the extent to which avoidable loss and waste occurs for the each of the highest volume produce items, such as lettuce, berries, tomatoes, apples, grapes, citrus, potatoes, onions, sweet corn, sweet peppers, broccoli, melons, carrots, stone fruit, avocados, cabbage and spinach. They will contact many growers in Santa Clara and six other nearby counties that are major fresh produce supply sources to obtain data on which to develop their estimates.  Farm visits, phone interviews and targeted questionnaire mailings will be used to ensure that a large sample of farmers are contacted, and that robust conclusions are reached in this study.  

The research will focus on developing detailed numerical data on food harvest disposal volumes and percentages for key fresh produce items. This is intended to establish a model for further investigation in other geographies. The purposes are to:     

  • identify priority supply shortfalls of fresh produce items at Food Banks,    
  • research the extent of on-farm waste and loss for these items, crop by crop,
  • assess what proportion of this volume is salvageable for human consumption (i.e. currently discarded for cosmetic rather than substantive defects),
  • propose cost-effective methods of procuring salvaged products for needy families.

 


 

Food Insecurity

Hunger Index Research

Food-Hunger-Index

The Food and Agribusiness Institute funds Dr. S. Andrew Starbird’s Hunger Index research, completed in collaboration with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

The Hunger Index was developed to measure hunger for the most food insecure households within specific counties. The Hunger Index also calculates the number of meals that are provided by various food assistance organizations and programs: SFHB, Children and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Meals on Wheels, School Meals Program, Senior Nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamps program), and Woman Infant and Children (WIC).

The 2013 Hunger Index estimated 814 million meals were required for all low-income households in 2013. Dr. Starbird found that these families were able to afford enough food to provide 417 million meals, or a little more than half their daily needs. Food-assistance programs provided 221 million meals, leaving 176 million “missing” meals. While the gap is still too big, it is showing a downward trend compared to the 2012 meal gap of 184 million meals. The number of low-income households, those earning less than $50,000 annually, also declined from 260,000 in 2012 to 256,000 in 2013.

 


Market Power in the Fresh Produce Agriculture Sector

This research explores opportunities to reduce food insecurity in California by examining the potential for community-based hunger relief organizations to provide a valuable secondary market to California’s agricultural producers. The paper describes and explains the relationship between market power in the fresh produce industry and the secondary markets that exist as a result of supply control. The primary objective is to develop an understanding of the relationship between the growth of market power in the primary market and the price of fresh produce product in the domestic secondary markets. It is concluded that the factors that affect this relationship most significantly are product price inelasticity and shelf life.


Mapping Hunger and Food Assistance in Santa Clara County

Mapping-Hunger

We use Geographic Information Systems to map hunger in Santa Clara County, California, relying on census data to calculate the percent of households living at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. We then overlay a plot of the food assistance distribution points to identify areas where low income residents do not have easy access to food assistance.

 


 

 

Cost of a Healthy Meal

We aim to understand the relationship between food procurement and nutrition attainment of low-income populations in the Bay Area. Of particular interest is the gap between food assistance allotments and actual food expenditures. Over 30 students have helped us conduct over 800 interviews with clients of Second Harvest Food Bank. Using this data, we analyze how food prices constrain food purchasing decisions and how those decisions ultimately affect low-income individuals' nutritional well-being.

Urban Agriculture

Urban Agriculture in Silicon Valley

Our research focuses on providing high-quality information that can help to make the local food system more sustainable, healthy, and fair. We are particularly concerned with how urban agriculture—or the production, distribution, and exchange of food in cities and at their edges—can contribute to greater food security and improved access to healthy foods for underserved communities. Working with local partners, we also explore obstacles to urban agriculture, relevant policies, and innovative models for agriculture and food access in this heavily urbanized region.

Publications and resources

Food Gardening in Santa Clara County: Preliminary Results 

This report summarizes the results of a garden harvest study, in which 86 volunteers weighed what they harvested from their gardens, and a survey of more than 400 Santa Clara County food gardeners in 2015.  Our preliminary results show that gardeners from diverse backgrounds are producing food that contributes to household consumption of nutritious and culturally important vegetables.


Urban Agriculture Evaluation

This project assesses the impacts, costs, and challenges associated with some of the most common forms of urban agriculture in Santa Clara County: community gardens, urban farms, home gardens, and farmers' markets. Using a method for weighing produce developed by our collaborators at UC Cooperative Extension Santa Clara County, we are working with home and community gardeners to measure the amount of produce they grow. Through surveys and interviews, we will assess how taking part in urban agriculture impacts people’s food security, health, social connectedness, food budgets, and civic engagement. This project also considers the costs and challenges of growing food in an urban environment.