Sustainable Food Purchasing: Produce

We’re always being told to eat more fruits and vegetables, but never seem to get enough. Fortunately, you can help keep your customers healthy and improve your environmental performance by sourcing products that are local and in season, cultivated with fewer chemicals, and brought to market with efficient modes of transport.

When sourcing produce, follow these best practices:

  1. Go organic. If reducing pesticide use is a priority for your facility, selecting organically-grown produce is the way to go. Organic produce meets USDA standards if it is grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. This is particularly important for fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide risk. However, it can often be prohibitively expensive for small farms to achieve organic certification. A good second choice is supporting farmers that employ Integrated Pest Management, which emphasizes natural methods of pest prevention and very selective use of chemical pesticides. In either case, it’s critical to take the time to learn more about your source farms and select those that are improving their performance over time.
  2. Go seasonal. Location, location, location. Where and when a food is grown has a significant impact on its environmental footprint. It’s important to create menus that change with the season and reflect local availability of fruits and vegetables. Stagnant menus are more likely to require long shipping distances and the sourcing of food grown in energy-intensive greenhouses or “hot boxes” during the winter. The Eat Well Guide provides links to seasonal fruits and vegetables by state.
  3. Buy imported produce with credentials. Although best to choose seasonal and local ingredients that travel efficiently, if you do import exotic fruits and vegetables, buy those certified by a credible third party like the Rainforest Alliance that can vouch for environmentally friendly growing practices.
  4. Reduce transport GHGs. Follow our Food Transport best practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions used to move produce. This includes sourcing from local farms to reduce transport distances and choosing efficient modes of transportation.