Boston-area foundation leverages buying power of college to increase local food

local produce
Photograph: Shutterstock

From The Henry P. Kendall Foundation.

The Henry P. Kendall Foundation has spent more than 60 years investing in people and projects designed to make the world healthier and more sustainable. For the past six of those years, the Foundation has focused on the health and vitality of the food system within its native New England, with an eye toward increasing the amount of locally sourced food that is consumed in the region.

To do that, the Kendall Foundation looked to large-scale institutions, such as colleges and universities.

“By leveraging the buying power of the region’s colleges and universities, we can create the consistent, long-term demand local farmers, fishers, and ranchers need to sustain and grow their operations,” said Andrew Kendall, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “These campuses are literally serving up millions of meals throughout the year. They can have tremendous influence over our food system, especially if they work together.”

In April, the Kendall Foundation challenged the dining services of New England’s more than 200 college and university campuses to team up and submit bold and innovative ideas to improve the health and sustainability of New England’s food system. Specifically, the Foundation wanted ideas designed to increase the amount of regionally-produced food on campus, educate students about the importance of a healthy regional food system and unlock supply chain barriers to scaling up regional sourcing.

Called the New England Food Vision Prize, this program is aimed at accelerating progress towards the New England Food Vision, a regional goal to produce at least 50% of New England’s own food by 2060, while supporting healthy food for all, sustainable farming and fishing and creating thriving communities.

The inaugural prize round received ideas from teams representing 37 college and university campuses in the region as well as several community partners, such as farmers, maritime processing facilities, food distributors and other vendors and advocates. Fourteen teams representing thirty campuses were invited to submit full proposals. Five teams made up of thirteen total campuses were selected to receive the prize.

Winning ideas include introducing and creating demand for kelp in campus dining, infrastructure for whole animal procurement, improved sourcing and purchasing systems for underutilized fish, seasonal extension through processing and incentives for farmers to expand farmland and diversify crops.

Each winning team will receive $250,000 to implement their idea and will share their findings along the way with their colleagues throughout the region.

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