Virginia Food Systems Leadership Institute: A Curricular Vehicle for University Food System Reform

Authors: Andrew Wingfield*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Environment
Keywords: institutional food, food systems, sustainable food and agriculture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8229, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Commitment to buying meat, vegetables, and fruits from local farmers offers a powerful opportunity to change the social relations between consumers and producers at all levels. Through connecting dining purchasers, chefs, sustainability directors, students, and faculty, the Virginia Sustainable Food Coalition (VSFC), a collaboration among four public research universities in Virginia, seeks to transform institutional food procurement. Launched in 2015, the VSFC mission is “to harness the intellectual, human, and economic capital of colleges and universities to foster the emerging local food economy in the Commonwealth.” The coalition’s most significant achievement to date is development and delivery (piloted in summer 2018) of the Virginia Food Systems Leadership Institute (VFSLI), a course designed to not only provide instruction in sustainable food systems to a rising generation of food system leaders, but also to serve as the primary vehicle for pursuing the VSFC mission. Practical models for transforming food service procurement can provide a useful tool for overcoming barriers that currently prevent dining services providers from spending a higher percentage of their budget on local and sustainably produced food. Here the authors consider the role of experiential place-based learning in the formation of institutional food cultures, practices, and policies through discussing course design, action research projects, and assessment data from the pilot, which show substantial learning gains across a wide range of indicators. We conclude with a report on current efforts to follow through on the action research projects initiated during the pilot and our efforts to be a year-round, ongoing operation.

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