Institutionalizing Sustainable Food: Creation and Implementation of the UM Sustainable Food Program and Campus Farm

Client Organization: 
University of Michigan Botanical Garden
Project Location : 
Ann Arbor, MI
Summary of Project Idea: 

Although the University of Michigan was committed to providing sustainable and healthy food on campus, and interest in sustainability was evident in many parts of university life, until 2011 U-M lagged behind our peer schools, especially with the lack of a larger-scale farm on campus.  The aim of this project was to help U-M go above and beyond the stated goals from the 2011 Sustainability Integrated Assessment, to become leaders in the field of stustainble food.  With extensive research into programs at peer schools and local farms, and through conversations with people and groups across campus and our community, the project team created the U of M Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) and the Campus Farm (on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens).  The mission is to foster collaborative leadership that empowers students to create a sustainable food system at the University of Michigan, while becoming change agents for a vibrant planet.  This work is done through three focus areas: education, community, and food production.  UMSFP, now with ten member groups, is a community that brings together the work of students who are already working to build a more stustainable food system on campus. 

Using the momentum of those groups and students who came before, the UMSFP was founded to bring everyone together to magnify the voices of individual groups.  U-M is in a unique position to train future leaders in food systems in diverse disciplines, since food cuts across academic silos and into everyone's lives.  Formal and informal education paired with the on-the-ground work of students is moved forward through the collective efforts of everyone involved in UMSFP, with the campus farm and on-campus gardens serving as a central hub of that learning.  The master's project team has grown and nurtured these projects from the ground up, creating a leadership structure, writing grant proposals and business plans, developing academic collaborations, reaching out to diverse groups of students, working side-by-side with our member groups, and laying the groundwork for many, many more years of progress in food sustainability on campus.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Bob Grese
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Liz Dengate, MS Conservation Ecology
  • Allyson Green, MPH/MS Environmental Justice
  • Lindsey McDonald, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Jerry Tyrrell, MS Conservation Ecology
Project Status: 
Past Project