Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Food, Nutrition, and Culinary Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Fraser, Angela M

Committee Member

Boys , Kathryn A

Committee Member

Kunkel , Elizabeth

Committee Member

Condrasky , Margaret


In response to concerns about an increasingly globalized food system in the United States, and increasing interest in the connections between small- and medium-scale (SMS) farms and institutional foodservice operations (IFO), the U.S. has recently developed legislation to link farmers to institutional markets (Joshi, Azuma, & Feenstra, 2008; Poulton, Dorward, & Kydd, 2010; USDA, 2010; Wootan, 2012). The purpose of this study is to determine if these connections are viable, sustainable and ultimately if the food is safe for consumption in the IFO. There are significant logistical, contractual and food safety concerns when sourcing food for IFOs from SMS farms. Each step from ordering to packaging to delivery to service can present significant barriers for procurement as well as traceability of the product from the farm to the fork (Bechini, Cimino, Marcelloni, & Tomasi, 2008; Ruiz-Garcia, Steinberger, & Rothmund, 2010).
This exploratory survey was designed to: (1) determine the benefits and barriers of school foodservice buyers in purchasing produce from SMS farms and (2) determine the benefits and barriers of institutional foodservice operations in implementing a traceability system for produce purchased from SMS farms. Qualitative research results from an earlier phase of this study and results from other previous studies that explored institutional foodservice procurement (e.g. The Oklahoma Food Policy Council, 2003; Minnesota School Nutrition Association [MSNA], 2010) were used as the basis of the survey. There were 33 questions with skip logic on 2 questions in the on-line survey. The survey included total percentage questions, multiple choice questions, 'yes' or 'no' questions, required or not required questions, 4-point Likert scale and 5-point Likert scale questions, and open ended questions in the business characteristics section. The survey was administered on-line over a 6-week period with three reminder messages.
The survey was administered to 411 institutional food service buyers from school districts throughout NC, SC and GA. The response rate was 29.9% with a total of 123 IFOs. The average annual budget was approximately $7 million with a mean of 2.92% (SD=0.05%) of the total budget spent on food safety protocol. The average food budget was approximately $3 million with a mean of 14.46% (SD=0.18%) spent on produce. Although 71% had not bought directly from SMS farms, 70% of buyers perceived there were benefits in offering produce from SMS farms in their IFO. Some perceived benefits of purchasing directly from SMS farms included fresher products, contribution to rural economy and customer appreciation for carrying 'local' products. Some perceived challenges included placing orders, reliable delivery, produce selection variety, adequate produce specifications, and lack of accessibility to SMS farm products.
Approximately 74% of respondents in SC, GA and NC reported having some kind of traceability system in place for food products. Preparation in the event of a food recall was most cited as a benefit by 91.26% of buyers. Although 74.19% of buyers reported they would need to purchase a software system specific to a traceability system, 57.73% of buyers would be limited to a great extent by the technology expenses associated implementation of a traceability system. However, 32.02% reported that they would not be able to spend anything on technology for a traceability system and 30.93% would not be able to spend anything on maintaining a traceability system.
It is critical to understand the benefits and challenges that IFOs face when building a marketing channel with SMS farms in order to determine if the farm to institution model can be economically sustainable in the long-term. In addition, although SMS farms are exempt from traceability when involved in direct marketing, IFO will still need to ensure a safe and contamination-free product for their consumers. IFO records and traceability protocol will assist in the event of a foodborne disease outbreak.

Included in

Food Science Commons



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