About the Calculator

Good Food Standards 1.0 | The Auditing Process

Good Food Standards 1.0 

Good Food encompasses a concern for producers, consumers, communities, animals and the earth. Good Food represents a common ground where all relevant issues from human rights to environmental sustainability can converge. The Good Food Calculator offers a comprehensive and decisive definition for Good Food; sets a high standard upheld consistently among institutions; and supports users in setting quantitative goals and tracking their progress. 

The Good Food Guide is a summary of Good Food criteria, consisting of a list of indicators for Socially-just, Ecologically-sound, Humane and Community-based standards. Students who use the Good Food Calculator refer to the Good Food Guide to determine which products count as Good Food. 

After over two years of research and collaboration with over 200 partners and advisors, Meal Exchange launched Version 1.0 of the Good Food Standards in Spring 2018. The standards will be updated every 2-3 years to remain relevant, ambitious and achievable. 

For a concise representation of our standards, take a look at the Good Food Guide, Version 1.0. For a more robust introduction to the entire GFC program, including a deep discussion on our values and standards, take a look at the Good Food Standards Package. 

The Auditing Process 

Identifying Good Food 
Broken down by standard, food items must meet a threshold in at least one Good Food Pillar to be considered Good Food. In the Good Food Guide Version 1.0, the four main Good Food pillars include: 
  • Ecologically-sound: Farms, ranches, boats, and other operations involved with food production practice environmental stewardship that: conserves biodiversity; promotes ecosystem resilience; and preserves natural resources, including energy, wildlife, water, air, and soil. Production practices should minimize: materials that cannot be recycled, returned to the soil or put in the compost; direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions; natural resource depletion; and environmental degradation. 
  • Socially-just: Individuals involved in food production, distribution, preparation — and other parts of the food system — work in safe and fair conditions; receive a living wage; are ensured the right to organize and the right to a grievance process; and have equal opportunity for employment. Socially-Just foods strengthen the capacity of affected groups and promote socially-just practices throughout the food chain.
  • Community-based: Foods that can be traced to nearby land, farms, ranches, boats and businesses that are locally owned and operated. Supporting small and medium-sized food businesses challenges trends toward consolidation in the food industry and supports local relationships and economies.
  • Humane: Animals should be healthy, free from ongoing and unmitigated pain and stress, able to express natural behavior and raised with no unnecessary medication.
 Nested within both the Community-based and Ecologically-sound pillars is a fifth pillar: 
  • Sustainable seafood: Seafood that is locally abundant and harvested on a small scale using fishing methods that do not degrade the health of ecosystems or other species, by fisherfolk who own and operate their vessels and are accountable to their communities.
Finally, the Good Food Challenge includes a sixth pillar, which is included in our values, but is not part of the Good Food Guide, and is not used to measure Good Food purchasing: 
  • Food sovereignty: Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies, which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies.
Refer to our Good Food Standards Package for more information on the Food Sovereignty Pillar. 

Measuring Good Food 
The institution’s Good Food percentage is then determined by dividing the total money spent on Good Food items by the total budget spent on all food items over the course of the assessment. 

The process of performing Calculator research looks different for every research team. Generally, it's the student researcher’s job to identify the source of each product, and to identify whether or not each product meets the Good Food criteria as outlined in the Good Food Guide. This entails online research, as well as reaching out to food producers, manufacturers, distributors and vendors. 

By comparing a food item to the criteria in the Guide, students can determine whether or not the item is considered Good Food for each of the four main pillars. For example, Fairtrade Certified coffee counts as Good Food under the Socially-just Pillar. 

Measuring by Stop-Light System 
To evaluate to what extent a food item meets the Good Food standards for each pillar, we divided the guide into three sections that model a stoplight. The production method under each attribute can be matched to a section on the stoplight. These sections are a research tool and are not recorded in data entry, nor reported in the results output of the Calculator

Green Light: Food items meeting these criteria qualify as Good Food and best represent the standard. 
Yellow light:  Food items meeting these criteria qualify as Good Food, but the certifications and criteria by which they are being evaluated do not represent the fullest expression of the standard. 
Disqualification: If a food item exhibits any disqualifying criteria, it cannot count as Good Food in any pillar. Any product which exhibits any disqualifying criteria cannot count as Good Food, even if it meets Good Food criteria in the green or yellow sections under other Good Food pillars. 

In order to count as Good Food, an item need only meet Green or Yellow Light criteria in one pillar, unless it has a disqualifier. 

Measuring by Number of Pillars 
In the Calculator results, a Good Food product is ranked based on how many pillars of the Good Food Guide it meets. Good Food​ is a food item that qualifies as Good Food in one pillar (such as produce that is only Ecologically-sound). Good Food+​ is a food item that qualifies as Good Food in more than one pillar (such as eggs that are Community-based and Humane).

This distinction is made in an effort to recognize various levels of success. Good Food+ is advantageous for more stakeholders. While Good Food has room for improvement, it is important to recognize that progress is being made. Good Food+ and Good Food count equally towards the overall Good Food percentage for the institution.
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Good Food Challenge, a joint project of Meal Exchange and the Real Food Challenge, is an international student campaign dedicated to creating a healthy, just and sustainable food system. Our goal is to shift $1 billion in institutional food spending to 'good food.'
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