Ethical Eating at General Assembly
In 2011, delegates to the General Assembly (GA) in Charlotte, NC, adopted the Statement of Conscience “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice”. The Statement is comprehensive, calling Unitarian Universalists to strive to choose foods that minimize harm and are protective of the environment, consumers, farmers, and all those involved in food production and distribution. These are new and challenging things to consider at events, especially when planners have little knowledge of caterer supply chains beyond ordering what may be listed on a generic menu. Where does our food at GA come from? How is it cultivated? Is farm labor able to work in a safe and healthy environment? Are livestock treated humanely? Do purveyors support local food systems?
GA planners use their influence to advance awareness and action on food issues. The Association’s influence is most felt in the exhibit hall and for a handful of catered functions where the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) contracts for food service. In contrast, the UUA cannot require compliance by on-site third-party retail concessions that provide the majority of food to GA participants.
The Phoenix Convention Center was informed of the UUA’s Statement of Conscience and provided a copy to read. They were asked to be mindful of these issues and specifically prioritize use of local and regional purveyors who adopt sustainable approaches. They were also requested to provide information about labor conditions, a request that proved difficult to complete when the convention center’s caterer, Aventura, polled their own supply chain about this issue. Organizers were able to confirm that several local farms in Arizona were used: Santa Rose, Pinto Creek, Rosseau and Sarah Farms (photo left). This amounted to 17% of menu ingredients used in the exhibit hall Marketplace. 49% of ingredients for the Marketplace were sourced within a 650 mile radius that extended to California and Nevada and suppliers such as Church Brothers and Irigoyen Farms.
The UUA is challenged to significantly influence food sourcing for GA as the event does not have many contracted or catered functions. In addition, attendees have very sensitive price points for retail concessions that make up the bulk of food service. While the UUA can require information about sourcing be shared post-event for exhibit hall food lines which are arranged by GA planners, concessionaires are not willing to provide detailed information on their supply chains, as it takes too much time and they are not required to under their agreements. The UUA will continue to ask and require disclosure, even if it is slow in coming.
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Last updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.
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