Darden Shares Grant for Food-System Research

June 24, 2008 — The University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and the School of Architecture's Department of Urban and Environmental Planning have received a grant from the Jefferson Area Board for Aging and the U.Va. Institute on Aging to fund student research this summer.

The grant will support one Darden student and one architecture student in research for the Community Food System Program in Charlottesville. One of the benefits of this program is that it will ultimately help Darden achieve its own sustainability goals by sourcing food locally.

The students and faculty advisors will work with the Community Food System Program advisory board, local farmers and other participants to evaluate the feasibility of an integrated and expanded food system – a hub for food delivery, preparation, preservation, marketing and agriculture/food education in the community. The goal is to provide increased offerings of fresher, more nutritious, and better-tasting food that is locally sourced.

The grant will aid research into food distribution and local agriculture. The team of students and faculty will focus on several research areas, including a project to map the current systems and organizations that get local and local-organic foods from farms to individuals; identifying existing buyers and prospective buyers; and drawing the supply chain and accounting for major producers, distributors, markets and buyers.

The Community Food System Program will use the student findings to adapt and scale up local food sourcing processes, with the long-term goal of being able to serve not only the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, but also large institutions such as the University of Virginia food service operations, including the Medical Center, Darden School and U.Va. student dining halls, as well as other Charlottesville restaurants and businesses.

The overarching goals of the project are to enhance the health and quality of life of JABA beneficiaries and other seniors in the Charlottesville community, while contributing to the revitalization of the local agricultural economy.

Charlottesville's circumstances are not unique: food systems are vital to communities, yet increasingly vulnerable in today's economy. Supply disruptions can occur due to terrorist attacks, weather or other threats to national and international distribution channels. Food contamination from factory production is an increasing concern. Additionally, rising fuel costs contribute to an increase in the costs of food and transportation. Locally based agricultural food production and distribution systems can counter these vulnerabilities and yield significant benefits. These include enlarging the market for local foods, which supports local farms, creates jobs, enhances food security and improves health through offering more nutritious foods.

The $5,000 grant will pay the student research assistants and offset travel expenses to visit and learn from well-established, successful business models and networks. This collaborative research project at U.Va. brings together the diverse skill sets of Darden and School of Architecture faculty and students to solve complex challenges.

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business is a professional school that works to improve society by developing leaders in the world of practical affairs.

For information, contact communication@darden.virginia.edu.