Coalition calls for sustainable, equitable food at UF

by Ashley Nguyen

The world’s leading experts — from the United Nations to the Lancet Medical Journal— have released studies stating that in order to avoid the worst  impacts of climate change, there needs to be a call for the world to limit greenhouse-gas intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets. 

These findings also come amidst growing climate protests led by young people across the country and the world demanding stronger action on climate change. 

Many of these protesters attend high schools and colleges like UF, where food is provided by Aramark. Meat and other livestock products we eat are responsible for nearly 15 percent of global climate change emissions — meat is responsible for as much climate pollution as all transportation worldwide. Beef alone, which has the biggest climate footprint of all, is about 34 times more climate pollution-intensive as legumes like beans and lentils, pound for pound. 

While Aramark has released a plan for sustainability, it did not address the significant emissions associated with its menus, one of the company’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And the company failed to even set a goal for how much climate pollution they are aiming to reduce, which is the hallmark of a meaningful climate plan, and something the company pledged to do at a shareholder meeting in 2019.

Aramark sells more meals than almost anyone else nationwide, and as such, they have a unique opportunity to become an industry leader when it comes to climate-healthy menus. That means committing to at least a 20 percent reduction in emissions associated with the most climate change-intensive foods on their menus — meat, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs — within the next two years. They can do this by cutting purchases of these foods and replacing them with produce, legumes or whole grains.

While Aramark’s contract with UF is now up in the air, this is a chance for both UF and Aramark to fulfill its responsibility to provide a living wage to employees, as well as take steps to become a sustainable component of the Alachua County community. 

Many employees under Aramark have been victims of time-card manipulation, wage theft, and poor wages — all of which are a result of Aramark and UF’s past disregard for the well-being of workers who keep the UF community afloat. 

While the terms of UF’s food service contract is up for reconsideration, now is the time for the Alachua County community to pressure one of the biggest employers in Gainesville to treat workers with dignity.

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