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Healthful and Sustainable Food

Harvard is rethinking food systems

Harvard’s Sustainable Food Standards hold vendors accountable for making continuous progress across areas such as:

  • Climate and ecosystems
  • Consumer wellbeing
  • Education and food literacy
  • Food waste reduction
  • Animal welfare
  • Wellbeing of workers and communities along the value chain
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Coolfood Pledge 

Harvard was an inaugural signatory of the Coolfood Pledge in 2019. As a signatory, Harvard pledges to: 

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food by 25% by 2030 
  • Simultaneously enable and support sustainable food systems 
  • Reduce wasted food 
  • Continue to implement Harvard’s Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards

The City of New York acknowledged this work inspired them to also sign onto the Coolfood Pledge.

Above is an analysis of “per-plate” emissions (i.e. emissions per 1,000 kilocalories), which indicates a decline since 2019 and that Harvard is on track toward its 2030 goal.
Between 2019 and 2022, “per-plate” emissions decreased by 14.3%. In 2022, total food-related GHG emissions only increased by 16%, even as food purchasing increased by 28% post-pandemic. The “per-plate” decline during this time period is due to decreases in red meat and dairy purchases and increases in plant-based food purchasing.

Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards 

First published in 2019, Harvard’s holistic Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards are designed to ensure the University is advancing sustainability and food-system education while providing food choices that are healthier for people and the planet. 

These standards hold Harvard’s food-service vendors accountable for making continuous progress across areas such as climate and ecosystems, consumer wellbeing, education, and food literacy, food waste reduction, animal welfare, and the wellbeing of workers and communities along the value chain.

Photo of a variety of plant-based foods.
  • 83% farmland: Animal agriculture provides only 18% of calories and 37% of protein globally, but uses 83% of farmland and contributes 58% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions.  
  • 25% GHG reduction by 2030: Harvard joined the Cool Food Pledge in 2019 with a goal to reduce GHG emissions from food by 25% by 2030. 
  • Plant-Based Meals by Default: When hosting events and meetings, the Harvard Office for Sustainability serves plant-based meals by default, giving diners the choice to opt-in for meals with animal products. The Greener by Default strategy is inclusive, reduces our carbon footprint, and increases the healthfulness of meals. 

Harvard University Dining Services

HUDS Learning Report

Each year, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) produces a Learnings Report of the prior academic year. In 2023, HUDS advanced plant consumption and focused on behavioral “nudges” to promote plant-based options. Students ate 20,000 fewer beef burgers in FY23 than in FY22 and shifted dietary patterns toward more plants, seafood, and poultry.

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HUDS 2022-2023 Report

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Sustainable Meetings and Events

Using tips from Harvard’s Sustainable Meeting and Event Guide, we can cultivate a culture of health and sustainability in how we plan campus meetings and events. Together, we can provide opportunities for staff, students, faculty, and visitors to eat well and stay active while advancing Harvard’s sustainability goals.

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Smith Campus Center Plaza during an event with food trucks lining the perimeter.

Leveraging food buying power

HBS Joins Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle

Harvard Business School (HBS) has joined Farm Forward’s Leadership CircleFarm Forward is a non-profit that promotes conscientious food choices that support humane treatment of animals and advance sustainable agriculture. Increasing the humane treatment of animals also has a positive impact on human health since over 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are used to treat farm animals living in cramped conditions. This contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans according to the Center for Disease Control.

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Someone wearing plastic gloves cracks an egg into a bowl.

Sustainable & Healthful Food Resources and Partners: