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Over the course of the academic year, Geography Majors Katie McMahon and Isabelle Smith, along with Florence Brooks, Katelyn Cline, Alexis Tammi and Leslie Alanis (majoring in E3P, computer science and the business) researched the current and status and future options for sustainability in the UNC Food System. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Dining Services (CDS) has been working for ten years with the Real Food Challenge (RFC), a third party organization which developed a sustainability metric and auditing process for institutional dining systems. In recent years, as CDS has advanced its sustainability goals and progress, constraints of the RFC standards have become apparent. This Undergraduate Research Consultant Team (URCT) project “takes stock” of the options available to CDS and revisits and identifies the sustainability priorities of key food system stakeholder groups. The research team conducted intensive data collection in the form of interviews and literature review in order to consider the past, present, and future of the UNC food system, and to develop recommendations for future sustainability measures–with or without RFC–that will enable CDS to continue to advance the sustainability needs of our campus, state, and planet. The team recommends that CDS should continue to use the RFC standard while sharing its progress on food sustainability with stakeholders continuing to define and advance campus food sustainability goals. This research was supervised by Dr Elizabeth Havice and Dr Amy Cooke and Geography Graduate Students Amy Braun and Andreina Malki played key roles as research assistants as well. The research was supported by the UNC Office of Undergraduate Research’s Undergraduate Research Consultant Teams program and the College of Arts and Sciences. Results were shared with CDS, campus and community stakeholders in a public presentation and final report, and the team also has a poster on display in the virtual Celebration of Undergraduate Research. Congratulations to the team on their great work!

Poster is available here:


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