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Interview with Michael Hodgins, Director
Sustainable Foods Systems/Café @ Rio Salado College
Michael Hodgins is the Director of Sustainable Foods Systems at the Café at Rio Salado College. His experience working within the kitchen at a young age gave him exposure to seasonal and local foods. This experience shaped Michael’s passion toward food as well as his approach to food economies. The primary focus for Michael over the past 10 years has been to connect local farmers to businesses in order to create the infrastructure for a working food economy. Education of the community has also become a priority so the growth of the local economy can continue to grow. Business within the food industry is a large part of the change that Michael focuses on addressing whether it be federal subsidies that prevent smaller business from purchasing local grown food or the competition small farms face from national conglomerates. His perspectives focus on changing how we view all aspects of the food industry.
This documentary shows how what we eat affects our planet. Meat and dairy consumption is the number one pollutant to the environment and yet it is often not discussed among environmentalists. There is so much devastation taking place on our planet due the animal agriculture industry: air pollution, and water contamination, destruction of the the Amazon rainforests. Natural resources, such as water - it takes one thousand gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk - are being over consumed. Land is being cleared of trees at a massive scale in the Amazon to make more room for land to raise livestock and grow its feed. Following the stories and experiences of several ASU students and other community members, the documentary highlights this connection between food and its effects on the environment and what people can do to make a difference.
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.