College establishes task force to assess food sustainability

by Eileen Brady | 10/9/17 2:45am

A working group regarding the sustainability of Dartmouth’s food systems is being established in the coming weeks, a step which aligns with the goals established by College President Phil Hanlon in his April 2017 pledge to move Dartmouth toward a low-carbon future. The working group will be comprised of students, faculty and staff, according to working group member and Dartmouth director of sustainability Rosalie Kerr ’97. Hanlon is expected to officially announce the group’s full membership within the next month, Kerr said.

“[Hanlon] has recently asked a group of people to serve on the food working group,” Kerr said, “Those invitations are out and almost everybody has responded. His office, I assume, will announce [the membership] shortly.”

The working group will have its first official meeting at the end of the term.

Environmental studies professor Andrew Friedland, who, alongside Kerr, co-chaired the sustainability task force from April 2016 to April 2017, said that food has a strong impact on the environment.

“Our task force identified that food has the potential to generate large impacts on the broader environment in relation to feeding people at Dartmouth,” Friedland said. “We just don’t have a great deal of information on what the current impact is of our food system, and we don’t have a good answer on how to make our food system more sustainable, [so] we suggested that there needed to be more investigation [into] and studies of our food systems on campus.”

Friedland added that the sustainability task force was comprised of 20 members including students, faculty and staff members, much like the expected composition of the working group.

In addition to finding ways to quantify the environmental impacts of the food system at Dartmouth, Kerr states that two of the working group’s primary goals will be education and understanding.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think that we’re at a place where we’re going to make decisions about or food system that are going to radically change how people eat at Dartmouth, at least not right out of the gate,” she said. “I think the mission here is to educate people about how their personal choices might impact the sustainability of the food web.”

Alexandra Sclafani ’18, who currently serves as a sustainable Dartmouth intern and last year worked as sustainability office student consultant to Dartmouth Dining Services, emphasizes how important the education component of the working group is for students at Dartmouth.

“You can’t ask people to critically think about where their food is coming from or ask them to stand up and say, ‘We need to change the food system at Dartmouth,’ without them knowing what the issues at hand are and what the broader implications of food at Dartmouth are for the environment,” Sclafani said. “An ultimate goal that I would have for a food working group on campus is to make students aware of the environmental and social issues that arise from the food and agriculture systems and then to inspire them to make that something they’re aware of in their lives outside of Dartmouth, beyond these four years.”

According to Kerr, these concerns are at the forefront of the working group’s mission.

“I think [Dartmouth students, as a result of the establishment of the working group] will see increased education and communication around the sustainability impacts of their food choices,” Kerr said. “They’ll start to see more indication that we’re aware of the effects of our food system and that they have a hand in making choices about the food system.”