Local food systems are now facing a new set of intersecting economic, social and environmental challenges. Recurrent socio-economic and biophysical changes put the sustainability of food systems at risk. There is an urgent need to develop knowledge-based tools or metrics to assess and monitor food sustainability and to identify pathways for food security and resource conservation. Stern Produce is a small scale, family owned business that has been serving our local Arizona community for a 100 years now since 1917. Essentially, it is a food distribution company that conducts wholesale supply of agricultural farm produce, dairy products and meat. Their mission is to supply the freshest fruits, vegetables and specialty food products with a first-class customer delivery experience. Recently, it has embraced the responsibility to conduct business in a manner that fosters societal resilience, invests in community wellness and environmental health. In order to do so, Stern has introduced an exclusive local food program in their organization named as the Arizona Fresh Together (AFT) program. The AFT program is intended to serve as a sourcing platform for the local restaurants and retail stores to procure sustainable food from our valley based local organic growers. This project, in partnership with Stern Produce’s Sustainability Manager, aimed to identify core comprehensive sustainability metrics to develop sustainability baseline indicators and assess the impacts of these indicators on the three tenets of sustainability: economy, environment and society, in addition to human health and wellness. By formulating these metrics, Stern Produce acknowledges the significance of transparency in their business operations and changing their business model towards a triple bottom line orientation. Based on the findings, the project assisted Stern in identifying the intervention points and facilitated cross departmental engagement in the AFT program in order to encourage value added business operations.
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