Students apply coursework to ASU's food systems

Urban Farm

Students at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability get the opportunity to tackle real-life issues in their community as a part of their studies. For Dr. Hallie Eakin’s students in the Fall 2011 undergraduate course, “Sustainable Food and Farms,” this meant conducting research to analyze ASU’s food sourcing decisions and come up with suggestions for improvements.

Through the research for this class, the students concluded that ASU is moving in the right direction in identifying and supporting sustainable food supplies. The student researchers noted, however, that they had several concerns regarding aspects of waste management, ecological impact, education, and transparency in the food system, among other issues.

Eakin’s students initiated their research by focusing on commonly served food items such as eggs, beef, dairy, seafood, coffee, and fresh fruits and vegetables. To make the project manageable, the students organized into 12 teams, with two teams assigned to investigate each food item. Each team independently evaluated the potential sustainability issues for their food item, including the various sourcing options available to ASU and the tradeoffs associated with each option. Their conclusions were delivered in final reports and presentations.

Numerous ideas emerged from the student research. Among their top strategies for improving the system were to emphasize education, transparency, and awareness as part of ASU’s sustainability initiative. The class’s final presentations can be found here:

  • ASU Beef - Students in this group suggested buying locally produced, grass-fed beef. They also suggested educating students about the environmental impact of meats and available alternatives.
  • Purchasing Sustainable Coffee - Students in this group recommended purchasing all Shade Grown Fair Trade coffee.
  • Got Milk? - Students in this group suggest a continued sourcing from Shamrock Farms, as well as incorporating Arizona Cheese Co. Products into a "Green 'n' Go" lunches.
  • Eggs at ASU: Sustainability concerns, sourcing options, and recommendations - Students in this group suggested buying from producers that are transparent in their processes and practices.
  • Let Them Eat Fish? - Students in this group recommended limiting fish consumption and purchasing from sustainable, local fish farms.
  • Fruits and Vegetables #1 - Students in this group suggested integrating the Real Food Challenge into the ASU's sustainability goals.
  • Fruits and Vegetables #2 - Students in this group recommended purchasing local, organic produce. They also suggested educating students about the importance of sustainable produce.

These presentations are student products; they are not endorsed by ASU or ASU’s food contractors. Any errors or omissions represented in the materials are the responsibilities of the student authors.