Northeastern became Boston’s first education institution to join the Real Food Challenge when it pledged in 2013 to purchase at least 20 percent of its food from local, sustainable sources by 2020. Now a School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs professor has teamed up with the Dining Services to identify opportunities for the university to partner with local food sources.
Professor Christopher Bosso and Maureen Timmons, director of dining services, were awarded a $5,000 planning grant from the Kendall Foundation to work with a student to research other institutions and determine ways to increase Northeastern’s local food sources. That research will serve as the basis of a preliminary report for a larger grant to employ a full-time co-op student who would then identify new emerging food businesses in the area, according to Bosso.
“We’ll identify a vendor that we can work with to help that person scale up to provide the university and other institutional producers with a product that’s both good and affordable,” said Bosso, a food policy expert who is currently writing a book on the politics of the U.S. Farm Bill as a way to understand food politics and the broader political system.
Miranda Beggin, a fourth-year business and political science major, spent the fall semester examining existing dining services in urban universities such as Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania. She said the hardest aspect of her work is determining what Northeastern is already doing and what can be done.
“It’s a constant quest,” said Beggin. “What is Northeastern doing? What can Northeastern be doing, and how do we make the things we can be doing possible?”
As a member of Menus of Change Collaborative, Northeastern is among a select number of universities working together to use their dining services as leverage points for changing the larger food system while helping students make better nutrition choices, such as by lessening the centrality of meat in daily eating.
For Beggin, who had previous experience in theoretical research, conducting practical research has taught her that it’s not always possible to answer every question that arises. But “don’t get discouraged,” she said, because it’s about “exploring all of the options and trying to answer as best as you can.”