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

Yale Sustainable Food Project

The Yale Farm
Purchasing Guidelines
Purchasing Guidelines Ranking
Annual Report

Food Service: contracted (sustainable food purchasing is independent)

Language type: guidelines rank sustainability priorities through a tier system which is organized by food type (vegetable, meat, etc.).

Background and Vision
The Sustainable Food Project was founded in 2001 by Yale students, faculty, and staff, President Richard Levin, and chef Alice Waters.  The Project seeks to nourish a culture in which the pleasures of growing, cooking, and sharing food are integral to each student’s experience at Yale.  The Project oversees a sustainable dining program with a seasonal menu, manages a model college farm, and supports academic and educational endeavors related to food and agriculture. 

In the dining halls, the Project purchases food that has been grown in a way that nourishes the well-being of those eating and working at Yale, contributes to the vitality of rural communities growing it, and protects the long-term health of the environment.  The Project builds relationships with farmers and producers who promote the vitality of their soil and their animals, and we are choosing distributors who trace their products to responsible sources. 

We choose to work with farmers, ranchers, and distributors who are practicing sustainable methods.  Our gold standard is that meat be raised on pasture in the region, and that our fruits and vegetables come from local farmers practicing sustainable methods.  These farmers do not need to be certified organic, but need to meet a high standard for sustainability. We try to familiarize ourselves with the growers and their practices before we come to rely on them. 

We do not consider the Connecticut state line a border constraining our purchases: with every item we aim to work with the best sustainable producer who is closest to our campus.  When we can not buy particular staples like coffee, chocolate, and bananas in the local region, we turn to organic, fair trade alternatives. 

The Sustainable Food Project and Yale University Dining Services work with a local distributor to help meet their sustainability guidelines.

The Project is working towards having its vendors track and report sustainable food purchasing and costs.  Currently, dining services tracks its own sustainable food purchases and reports progress through annual reports expressed as a percentage of the total food budget.  Costs are monitored and have been found to have decreased with experience, as logistics are worked out.

Lessons Learned
A keystone of the Yale approach has been that food must be both delicious and sustainable to win people’s hearts. Few people will suffer through bad food. 

Yale developed sustainability targets for the entire university that were written and publicized - important to include all stakeholders in setting targets.