Understanding the UCSD Market for Sustainable Foods: The Sustainable Agrifood Systems Fellowship
Author(s): Jack Hale Buchanan
Course Name: Environmental Systems Senior Seminar
Program Name: Master of Science in Environmental Systems with emphasis in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution
Institution: University of California, San Diego
Publication Date: June, 2009
Paper Type: Undergraduate Thesis
If UC San Diego is serious about becoming a university leader in sustainability, it is imperative that more attention and resources be directed toward its food system, and in particular to the sourcing of more sustainable foods like local and organic. Through focused discussions with campus stakeholders as a Sustainable Agrifood Systems Fellow, it became clear to me that the biggest obstacle to increasing sustainable food sourcing is uncertainty about the customer (primarily student) market for sustainable foods. In that vein, under the SAS Fellowship I conducted a student interest survey to quantify customer food values and willingness to pay for various sustainable food qualities. This report summarizes the key findings of that study, which reveal a clear discrepancy between relatively high customer values about sustainable foods on one hand, and relatively low willingness to pay for them on the other. It then goes on to identify contextual factors—namely an troubled economy, rising student costs, and deficiencies in sustainability education and programming—which may account for this discrepancy. Finally, it suggests ways to expand the campus market for sustainable foods, as well as innovative administrative approaches to helping finance the shift towards food sustainability.
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