The Food and Sustainability Working Group at MIT set out in fall 2017 to recommend concrete strategies for how the MIT campus can further provide access to healthy, affordable food through systems and processes that consider the health, social, and environmental impacts of food procurement, production, consumption, and waste on campus.
The food we eat. The design of our built environment. The technology we use everyday. The resilience of the community to withstand climatic events. All of these factors and many more are intricately linked to both the health of people and the planet.
Supporting a healthy and vibrant community
At the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS), we seek to explore these connections and work with our operational and research partners to activate campus systems that promote public health, environmental sustainability, economic vitality and innovation in our local and global communities.
MIT’s location along the Charles River and its proximity to a rich transit network make walking, biking, and car-free travel possible for many members of the community. The Institute also offers several programs and initiatives designed to promote wellness on campus. Our dining partners have begun to integrate health and sustainability into their menus and operations. New buildings and renovation projects are presenting opportunities to rethink our indoor environments and urban landscapes.
Building on this work, MITOS seeks to work with our partners to further explore:
The ways in which our built and natural environments can promote healthy lifestyles and community resilience
The ways we procure, produce, and consume food on campus
The critical relationship between our campus food system and climate change
The health-related co-benefits of low-carbon transportation to, from, and around campus
MITOS is currently working collaboratively to transform the campus food system and build a campus that promotes health and well-being via operations, education, research, and innovation in the following areas.
Access MIT represents the Institute’s progressive vision for rethinking the culture of commuting and encouraging sustainable transportation practices. Access MIT provides benefits to employees that choose active, sustainable modes of commuting.
MITOS is part of a community of departments, labs, and centers working toward elements of a sustainable campus. Featured below are initiatives from some of our partners.
The MindHandHeart Initiative taps into MIT’s passionate community spirit and innovative problem-solving skills to enhance mental health and overall well-being at MIT.
Community Wellness at MIT Medical works with the entire MIT community to provide the resources and programs that can help you make healthy choices, from yoga to healthful eating.
MIT Dining manages numerous venues and programs to provide food to students and community members, from residential dining halls to retail cafes.
In addition to providing health and wellness services to the community, MIT Medical is an active partner in integrating sustainability into the campus health framework, from public health and climate resiliency planning to healthy commuting practices.
Recognizing that increasing levels of urbanization, shifting climate patterns, and changing diets deeply influence local and global food security, departments across MIT are working collaboratively to address food system challenges at multiple scales. MITOS has set out to explore the culture of food across the Institute -- from dining halls to labs -- and connect with thought leaders to create a shared vision for a sustainable campus food system.
In October 2017, the MIT Food & Sustainability Working Group set out to have a conversation about the MIT food system—one that bridged the areas of food insecurity, student and retail dining, campus construction, education, culture, and technology. Over the course of eight months, the group examined the cultural, administrative and environmental dimensions of the MIT food system, resulting in a set of recommendations for operationalizing sustainability across campus life and operations. Read more here, or click below.
Sustainability in the campus food system
In recent years, MIT has launched initiatives such as the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS), which seeks pathways for supplying fresh water and food for the world’s growing population as the pressures of climate change increase. Student initiatives such as the Food and Agricultural Club, which hosts an annual Innovation Prize, are also seeking to address elements of the food system on campus and globally. Operationally, MIT Dining and its partners are aiming to improve health and nutrition, effective procurement and production of food, and waste management across campus facilities. Keep reading below to find out more.
MIT partners with Bon Appétit and Restaurant Associates as its on-campus vendors for residential and retail dining. As a company, Bon Appetit strives to achieve greater social responsibility and sustainability, which led them to launch their Farm to Fork program in 1999. This program is a company-wide commitment to buying locally, with chefs striving to purchase at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small (under $5 million in sales), owner-operated farms and ranches located within 150 miles of their kitchens. Together with MIT staff, MIT Dining also maintains a rooftop garden program at McCormick House (pending relocation), with about 80 boxes and an auto-watering system. To learn more about MIT Dining and its partners, visit here
The MIT Recycling program manages on-campus food waste collection. This includes food waste from nearly 20 dining facilities, student residences, and independent living groups on campus. Around 12 tons of food waste is collected each month, much of it coming from the kitchen prep areas of dining locations on campus. Additionally, some residence halls, particularly graduate dorms, collect food waste for composting. Currently, only food waste or plant material may be collected, due to limitations in regional infrastructure for processing compostable containers and silverware.
MIT offers many on-campus resources related to food, wellness, and sustainability. These include the MIT Medical Community Wellness program as well as many classes during IAP and semester terms. Explore more:
1.74 Land, Water, Food, and Climate
11.377 Food Systems and the Environment
24.03 Good Food: The Ethics and Politics of Food
21A.155 Food, Culture, and Politics
21W.012 Writing and Rhetoric: Food for Thought
21G.045 Global Chinese Food
STS.429 Food and Power
During the Spring, Summer and Fall the City of Cambridge supports seven farmers markets. Two spring to fall markets accept EBT/SNAP - the Central Square Market and the Harvard University Market. In addition, the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market at the Cambridge Community Center accepts EBT/SNAP.
In Somerville, the Somerville Winter Farmers’ Market (December-April) accepts SNAP/ EBT and HIP (Healthy Incentives Program). The Union Square Farmers’ Market in Somerville (May-November) also SNAP/EBT/Food Stamps, and several vendors also accept WIC and Elder Coupons.
Cambridge and Boston both have many additional farmers markets that are available throughout the week. Find a market near you:
MITOS Vision for Food Systems
To support a campus community has access to healthy, affordable, and culturally meaningful food in a physical environment designed for social connection and innovation.
The Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) was created to coordinate and promote water and food research at MIT, emphasizing the deployment of effective technologies, programs, and policies that will have a measurable and international impact as humankind adapts to a rapidly expanding and evolving population on a changing planet.
MITOS is working to take an approach to sustainability that promotes environmental justice and centers the values of diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion in all levels of our work, in line with the strategic priorities of the Institute Community and Equity Office (ICEO) and MIT’s Campus Services and Stewardship units.
This work includes developing a deep understanding of the racial injustices that contribute to the unequal distribution of environmental costs, benefits, and conditions in communities.
We also seek to advance an inclusive process, recognizing that the sustainability field has often marginalized groups who are the closest to pollution, most impacted by climate change, and who have the knowledge to contribute the most innovative solutions.
Learning, Collaborating, Doing
Through learning and collaboration, we are working with partners across the Institute, the Boston area, and beyond to develop actionable strategies that eliminate inequities and advance a healthy, just MIT community.
What might this look like? As we get to work, we envision an environmentally just community that ensures our local air is clean for all residents by maximizing renewable energy, material reuse, and green space and minimizing fossil fuels, waste incineration, and traffic congestion. We imagine a food system that supports local growers and small businesses, and is nutritious and accessible for all. And much more. We are exploring solutions that reduce the campus's impact on the environment, while nurturing and uplifting people.
Read more about our recent work below, check out our resources, and stay in touch.
Recent MITOS Workshops
ICEO Community Dialogues: Exploring Climate & Environmental Justice (Thursday, March 4, 2021)
An opportunity to reflect on your role in promoting climate and environmental justice at MIT with Susy Jones, MITOS; Asia Hypsher ’21; and Patricia Saulis, MLK Visiting Scholar, Executive Director, Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, Canada
Sustainability Connect: Exploring the Social Justice and Sustainability Nexus in Colombia, the U.S., and Campus (October 15, 2020)
With Susy Jones, MITOS; Janelle Knox Hayes, Associate Professor Associate Professor of Economic Geography and Planning; Luis Gilberto Murillo-Urrutia, Research fellow at ESI & Former Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia; and Marcela Angel, Research Associate at ESI
ICEO Day of Dialogue: Climate, Sustainability, & Justice at MIT (August 5, 2020)
This session opens up a dialogue to discuss the connection between environmental racism and justice and our work advancing a sustainable campus. With Susy Jones, MITOS; Justin Steil, Associate Professor of Law and Urban Planning; and Mimi Wahid ‘21
Slides & Recap
The MIT Indigenous Peoples Advocacy Committee (IPAC) in part with MIT's American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Native American Student Association (NASA) and other Indigenous MIT students/alumni developed this land acknowledgement statement.
Recent ESI white paper explores issues related to just transition to a low-carbon economy, “Changes in the contribution of coal to tax revenues in Greene County, PA, 2010-2019.”
Patricia Saulis is Executive Director of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council and an MIT Visiting Scholar in 2020-2021 in Comparative Media Studies. This is her talk: “Creating Space for Balance: Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science — Two-Eyed Seeing — in Environmental Justice and Media”
This spring, MIT is participating in a multi-university effort to offer alternative programming to students across universities in March and April related to social and climate justice. Stay tuned to learn more!
Exploring her identity through writing has clarified senior Mimi Wahid’s desire to serve rural Southern communities like her hometown.
The Institute Community and Equity Office (ICEO) is a resource for community, equity, inclusion, and diversity policies and resources, and an organizer of related activities and conversations.
ESI pursues multidisciplinary research, education, events, and partnerships to help move society toward an environmentally and socially sustainable future - including many issues related to environmental justice.
The Department of Urban Studies & Planning (DUSP) hosts classes, research and events across topics of equity and justice- related to transportation, housing, climate resiliency, civic design and more.
The PKG Center is the epicenter of public service at MIT, and hosts many opportunities and resources for students to engage in meaningful work and conversations around equity and justice in communities.