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    Harper’s food metres move wins national prize

    Posted 24 October 2008


    Harper Adams University College has scooped a coveted award for the way it is using the college farm to reduce food miles and beat the credit crunch.

    Harper Adams won the Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development award at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008 ceremony held on 23 October at Grosvenor House Hotel, London. It was one of six institutions shortlisted for the award but pipped the rest to the post due to its outstanding work in the field.

    Professor Wynne Jones, Harper Adams Principal, said: “We are thrilled to have won Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development and to be recognised as a leading institution in the UK. I congratulate all those involved in the work that led to this major award, including colleagues from Catering, the Farm, all those involved in our recycling programme and those who put together the award entry.”

    Like many other universities and colleges, Harper Adams has embraced the Fairtrade approach to the sourcing of certain food products, but its Catering Department has taken further steps to promote sustainability whilst reflecting the special place of the University College in the life of UK agriculture. 

    Since 2007, Catering Manager David Nuttall and Head Chef Wayne Wright have introduced more local food sourcing to reduce ‘food miles’ and support local food businesses. To source foods in metres rather than miles, an obvious step was to widen the product range from the University College’s own 343 hectare farm. 

    Examples include the use of pedigree Lleyn lamb, reared predominantly on grass in sites of high conservation value and pork provided from the farm’s White Cross 'Pietrain' Belgium breed pigs. Eggs are obtained from the 60,000-hen Poultry Unit, whilst herbs are grown on the campus by the Grounds Manager, and supplied throughout the summer months.

      In 2009, Harper Adams hopes to obtain milk from the University College’s new and expanded Dairy Unit.
    Coupled with a second major initiative where more than 70% of the Department’s waste, including glass, paper, cardboard, cans, plastics and cooking oil, is now recycled, the Catering Department has taken major strides to reduce its impact on the environment.

    Mr Nuttall, who accepted the award from Sara Parkin, founder director and trustee of Forum for the Future, said: “We won! It’s a fantastic achievement - I’m delighted the team has received such recognition for all its hard work over the past few years, and that the Times Higher panel judged us as truly outstanding.”

    Ann Mroz, Editor of Times Higher Education, commented: “Harper Adams has shown real originality in counting food metres rather than food miles. The laudable idea of contributing to sustainable development through their catering department demonstrates that innovative solutions to tackling carbon emissions in universities are not only being mooted by academics, they are appearing in management initiatives as well.”

    Sara Parkin said Harper Adams won the award “not only for the novelty of the source of the nomination, but also for the transferability of the initiative and the breadth of engagement across the institution”.

    She added: “Whether your university catering is done in house or through a contract, Harper Adams is showing how sustainability can be built into every aspect, much more local provision of high quality produce, including from its own farm and fair trace sourcing are matched by a tremendous 70 per cent recycling score for everything from glass to cooking oil.”

    Before presenting the award, she said Harper stood out from the other entrants - and the finalists - because a lot of the worthwhile work other institutions are doing on, for example, sustainable buildings is now becoming mainstream as the sector moves towards a greener future. “What was outstanding a few years ago is now standard practice,” she said.

    The fourth annual Times Higher Education Awards ceremony recognised the ground-breaking work undertaken by UK higher education institutions. More than 130 institutions submitted entries for the 18 categories which included Best Student Experience, University of the Year, Outstanding Student Financial Support Package, Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community, Marketing Initiative of the Year and Outstanding Support for Disabled Students.

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