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Campus Notices

Central Food Systems Cooperative (CFSC) Request for Comments

Notice Type: 

Auxiliary Operations has proposed a new campus project regarding student wellness and food-system centered sustainability. The Central Food Systems Cooperative would provide students with opportunities in education and health--in partnership with existing campus programs and organizations. The projects is proposed to be located adjacent to the Alder rec fields, on the corner where Dean Nicholson blvd. meets north Alder street. The CFSC presented the project to the Enterprise Facilities Committee on March 19, and is seeking their recommendation at the April meeting.

The CWU community is the most important stakeholder in the project. Please send comments in regards to the attached business case to Kelly Clerf ( no later than April 17.



Auxiliary Operations proposes the creation of a CWU Food Systems Cooperative (CFSC), to address the contributions of related departments to environmental degradation and social injustice. Auxiliary Operations moves to be accountable to the sustainability of its departments and is committed to being a leader in sustainable action on campus. The CFSC is comprised of Dining Services and Catering, a campus compost project, and a farm/garden project. The CFSC would work closely with existing departments and organizations on campus towards a common goal of fostering a community around an environmentally and socially responsible food system. The CFSC statement of purpose is as follows:

Food intersects with all areas of sustainability—environment, society and culture, and economics. It puts vitality into our communities. It is how we connect socially, in ritual, and across cultures. Our campus is a community within itself and as a part of the larger Ellensburg-Central Washington community. The social and ecological implications of our food systems are fundamental to maintaining healthy communities and fostering a successful campus.

1. Problem Definition
The USDA and EPA report that 30-40 percent of the United States food supply is wasted. Food that could otherwise be consumed or recycled into compost is sent to landfills where it festers under anaerobic conditions and emits methane (CH4)—a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is highly effective at warming and a main contributor to changing climates. Central Washington University does not currently recycle food waste into compost and is sending tons of waste to landfills. Agriculture as a whole is responsible for 10 percent of GHG emissions in the U.S. due to intensive resource use that is not conducive to environmental health. The food CWU purchases from distributors can travel thousands of miles from the original source to CWU facilities, and it is immensely difficult to determine how that food was produced or processed. Shipping products from source to distributor to CWU adds unnecessary emissions to the university’s tab.

2. Addressing Problem with CWU
Multiple locations were assessed as the main center for the CFSC. The Sod Farm by Brooklane; a number of open acres on 18th Street and Helena; small vacant lots surrounding main campus; and the requested space on the corner of Alder St. and Dean Nicholson. The locations were judged based on the most recent Campus Master Plan, future considerations by administration, the needs of existing programs related to the CFSC, and whether it is accessible to students. Significant consideration was given to the needs of the CWU Campus Community Garden (CCG), a close partner to CFSC programs. Dr. Rebecca Pearson has facilitated the growth of a community of students, faculty, and staff around food and gardening—which serves a key purpose on campus. It is currently without a permanent space, and for their program to be successful they need to be able to put down roots at a stable location. They need to be visible and accessible to the community so folks are aware that their space is an unconditionally welcoming one. The lot on Alder St. and Dean Nicholson fulfills those needs, as well as provides ample space for CFSC programs to grow and thrive. Dining and catering programs require more volume than the CCG can provide in order to make a measurable impact. Similarly, Grounds manages a compost facility for landscaping waste but the addition of food waste to their piles requires more planning, permitting and approvals from the health department, and proper management to be successful than their staff or ours can provide.

3. Organizational Impact
There are no currently existing solutions to the actions proposed by the CFSC. The CCG and Grounds have projects that align with the CFSC, but are not substitutes. Alongside the CCG, a number of other stakeholders would have the opportunity to be involved with the CSFC—Grounds, Facilities, academic departments and programs (Nutrition, Public Health, Environmental Studies, etc.), student organizations, and the Ellensburg community as a whole. The primary users of the space would be the CCG, the composting project, and the new farm/garden project. Infrastructure additions (power, water, storage) to the empty space and labor (full-time program manager) will be the most cost intensive components. A number of those costs will be funded by Auxiliary Operations. Some of this infrastructure includes: irrigation, tilling sections for planting, storage structures for tools and equipment, power hookups for composting, a washing station, and greenhouses. There should be no changes to the recreation fields adjacent to the space, nor to the field to the back.

4. Benefits
Students will get produce—grown as locally as possible—in campus dining halls, and through future programs (farm stand, CSA program). Classes will be able to engage in projects on site and learn more about the process of growing food. Community events can take place on site and allow folks to engage with a diverse and healthful food environment. Students will have opportunities to learn about other career possibilities in food systems work. The location—currently an empty lot—will be rich with life and act as a carbon sink on campus. Plants will attract pollinators—along with the possible apiary—to benefit both the campus and surrounding community. Construction of greenhouses will allow for fresh produce into the colder months when it is otherwise unavailable in our area. Most importantly, the program will divert food waste from landfills (lowering CWU’s contribution to methane emissions) and mitigate agriculture/food related contributions to climate change by creating a closed loop on campus—farm, to consumer, to compost, and back to the farm. This space can be the center of sustainability CWU needs that people can be directed to for a real representation of the commitment to environmental and social responsibility that exists on campus.

5. Strategic Alignment
Central’s strategic plan and the goals of the CFSC have distinct parallels. There were a number of examples to choose from, but a few to consider include:

“…To prepare students for enlightened, responsible, and productive lives;” is a direct goal of the CFSC. Food systems awareness is connected to nearly all parts of life—economics, race, gender, class, history, etc. It is the responsibility of higher education institutions to ensure students are informed decision makers in the future; “to help address the social and economic challenges faced by our communities.”

The CSFC would “enhance student success by…improving the curricular, cocurricular, and extracurricular programs” available to students. The components of the CFSC allow for engagement with academics, student life, and community partners.

As a final example, the CSFC would “Enhance the commitment and the level of cooperation between the university and external communities.” There is often a sense of division between the university and the community at large. Food brings people together. This project is an opportunity for the university to engage with folks working in the food system across the community. It is centered in innovation, growth, and merging creativity with science. It is in the universities best interest.

6. Alternatives
An alternative solution is to reevaluate contracts between Dining, Catering, and their distributors to ensure we are purchasing as much food as possible from regional producers whose practices are in line with environmental and socially responsible standards. Purchasing from regional producers will reduce CWU’s contribution to GHG emissions, as well as enhance cooperation with community members. An extended partnership could be established to send food scraps to community partners to feed their compost piles, if they have the capacity to handle those scraps. This solution was not selected because it minimizes the opportunities for students to drive the success and be a part of the solution. There is no physical space or opportunity for engagement attributed to this solution.

Another alternative is to do nothing. To keep the program the same as it has been. Purchasing from distributors is simple, can be less expensive, and does not require changing patterns of behavior that are well-established in various departments. It will not require capital input and the departments can continue making a wider profit. This situation was not selected because it is not a solution to greenhouse gas emissions; it is not a solution to agricultural emissions; it does not engage students beyond working in the facilities; it does not align with the strategic plan or values promoted by the university. Stagnation can be financially stable, but it does not imply progress, innovation, or accountability. It is easy, but easy is not always the best option. Maximum capital gain does not always outweigh the responsibility to environmental health and social justice.





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