This profile was developed in 2007 as part of the Sustainable Food Policy Project.

University of California at Santa Cruz

Sole Source Purchasing Justification
Purchasing / vendor selection guidelines
General produce
Organic Produce

Food Service:

Language type:
Specific parameters for local and organic food purchases

Background and Vision
Student, food and labor activists organized at University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) in support of a more sustainable food system.  This ultimately resulted in the termination of UCSC’s contract with a national food service provider in favor of a university-run food service operation. A food systems working group was formed to develop guidelines for vendor selection and build a solid foundation for outreach, education, and curriculum development related to food issues.  The guidelines set objectives for food purchasing which include benefits to the environment and human health, and the advancement of worker rights.

UCSC’s guidelines address six food product preferences: local, organic, humanely produced animal products, direct purchasing, fair trade certification, and worker supportive.  Local is defined as within a 250-mile radius of Santa Cruz.  Organic is defined according to USDA standards.  “Humanely produced” animal products are defined as “cage free, range fed, and antibiotic & hormone free.”  “Worker supportive” was defined according to wage, benefit, and continuing education opportunity criteria.

Local/organic produce is sourced through a cooperative of local farmers that was formed specifically to provide produce to the university.  The organic Produce RFQ required the vendor(s) to function as a “single entity” in order to comply with the university’s standard ordering and delivery procedures.  The RFQ stipulates that pricing be negotiated on a biannual basis in acknowledgement of variable pricing in the local market for organic products.

The organic produce RFQ requires the vendor to provide sales reports as needed, and requires farm of origin to be listed on product lists and invoices in order to ensure locality criteria are met. 

Lessons Learned
It is important to include a representative from purchasing in order to have a good understanding of the regulations and policies governing vendor selection.

University of California purchasing regulations do allow “local/regional” as a criterion for vendor selection because “freshness” is a food quality attribute.

University of California purchasing regulations, however, did not allow “worker supportive” to be used as a criterion in the selection of a vendor because is “not a characteristic of food.”  “Worker supportive” was however, incorporated as a preference in the RFQ.

As food system working groups are emerging on individual University of California campuses, there are currently efforts under way to develop a sustainable food policy for the entire UC system that incorporates procurement, waste reduction, and green facility standards.