Hello! My name is Marie and I’m currently a third year student studying Environmental and Sustainability Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Food Systems. I’m also working toward certificates in Geographic Information Systems and Global French Studies.
Currently, I am researching institutional purchasing habits with my advisors, Jodee Ellett and Angela Babb. Last fall a survey was sent out through qualtrics to Indiana institutions such as K-12 schools, universities and colleges, hospitals, and correctional facilities. The survey included questions about how many people the institutions feed as well as how much money they spend annually. The survey then inquiries about local food purchasing and how often institutions are considering where their food is coming from. At this point, two rounds of the survey have been sent out and we are analyzing the results.
In Indiana, 90% of food sales come from out of state purchases. That is to say, only 10% of the food that we eat was grown or processed in Indiana. The money that we are spending on food is not stimulating Indiana’s economy. This statistic is especially shocking considering over three fifths of the land in Indiana is agricultural land. The purchasing of food by K-12 schools, universities, hospitals, and other institutions is incredibly important. For example, more than one million lunches are served in Indiana K-12 schools each day. Considering this enormous purchasing power, a shift in where purchased food is grown would have a substantial impact.
Oftentimes, institutions are unaware of how to source food locally. When you are concerned with feeding over 5,000 people each day, it seems a bit cumbersome to switch up where you source your food from. Hopefully this research highlights the opportunities for farmers and institutions to work together. Of course, this could be catalyzed through government policy. Considering this research is modeled after research done on institutional purchasing in Vermont, the possibility exists for Indiana institutions to be incentivized to prioritize purchasing local food.