General News

Vegetarian meals at foundation events

Fellow(s): Sarah Reed

This post was co-authored by Executive Director Sarah Reed, Program Director Erin Lloyd, and Administrative Coordinator Laine Kuehn.

We have decided as a staff to serve only vegetarian meals at Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation events from now on.

Science and society are increasingly acknowledging the climate costs of food production. In August 2019, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a major report on land use and climate change, which indicated that food production accounts for one-quarter (23%) of global greenhouse gas emissions, and more than half (58%) of food emissions come from animal products. The report’s authors emphasized that by reducing meat consumption, more people could be fed using less land and CO2 emissions could be reduced, creating “major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.”

A desire to minimize the climate costs of the foundation’s programs is also something we have heard from fellows. As we recently transitioned to a combined fall retreat for both east and west coast fellows, which necessarily involves cross-country travel for half of the cohort, fellows have encouraged the foundation to reduce or offset the emissions associated with this travel. Suggestions have included eliminating meat from retreat meals and offering incentives for train travel where possible.

In the words of chef José Andrés, “Food touches everything.” We anticipate the decision to offer vegetarian meals will be just the starting point for continuing to evaluate the consequences of the food provided at our events, including sourcing, transportation, packaging, labor, and waste. These steps are meant to ensure that the foundation’s operations are closely aligned with the environmental and social goals of our mission.