Study to unmask ‘true cost of food’ for NYS agencies
Michigan apples may cost New York State schools a little less than New York apples, but once you factor in the environmental impact of shipping apples 800 miles, the Loss of nutrients after months of storage and reduced income from the agricultural industry, these New York apples look much more appetizing.
When calculating the “true cost” of food purchased by New York state agencies – which spend more than $1.2 billion a year on food and are required to buy from the lowest bidder – the state could be better served by incorporating external costs such as nutrition, greenhouse gas emissions and job creation, said Mario Herrero, Professor of Sustainable Food Systems and Global Change in the Department of Global Development at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).
Herrero is the principal investigator of a new 18-month study, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and including researchers from CALS and SC Johnson College of Business, to understand the true cost of food purchased by public agencies in the state of New York.
“We don’t really account for all of the costs associated with the food system, so our goal is to create a system that would allow New York agencies to choose suppliers based on the actual cost of food,” said Herrero, a Cornell Atkinson Fellow. .
The United States spends $1 trillion on food every year, but this figure does not take into account the health costs caused by diet-related illnesses, nor the impacts on water, air and climate associated with food production. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, up to two-thirds of the true cost of food is hidden.
“Agencies in New York spend more than $1 billion each year buying food – those dollars could provide a powerful local economic multiplier effect, if used to support local producers and processors and larger goals. New Yorkers for agrifood systems,” said Chris Barrett, co-PI on the project and Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Currently, New York encourages school food authorities to purchase local foods through quota systems. For example, schools can receive additional funding from the state if at least 30% of their food expenditure is devoted to local products. However, quota systems can reduce supplier competition and end up hurting both taxpayers and suppliers in the long run, said Todd Schmit, co-PI and professor at the Dyson School, part of SC Johnson. Middle School.
“Since there is a local quota, suppliers who benefit from these quotas can raise their prices – which ultimately increases the cost to taxpayers – without having to compete or innovate,” Schmit said. “Policies like quotas often hurt in the long term the very companies they aim to help in the short term. Ultimately, we want to internalize the positive and negative externalities associated with food supply so that all elements are taken into account. taken into account when making food purchasing decisions.
Engaging with national and local agencies to understand their needs and current food supply practices will be critical to the success of the project, said Brad Rickard, co-PI and professor at the Dyson School. After reviewing current bidding protocols, researchers will create standard formulas that incorporate science-backed calculations to account for real food costs and create an easy-to-use web tool for state agencies to use when bidding. purchase of food.
“Our goal is to support New York State’s economy, producers, and taxpayers, and to reward those who produce healthy, high-quality food efficiently and with minimal impact on the environment,” Rickard said.
Krisy Gashler is a writer for the Department for Global Development.