PAT Hiring a Farm to Institution Researcher

The Washtenaw Food Policy Council’s Farmers and Institutional Purchasing Policy Action Team (PAT) has partnered with the Ecology Center and Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy to conduct a study that will lay the groundwork for high-impact projects to accelerate institutional local food purchasing in Washtenaw County. Our team was awarded a grant through Washtenaw County’s Public Act 88 funds to conduct the study.

The leadership team for the study consists of Nicki Milgrom of the Ecology Center and WFPC Full Council Member, Lindsey Scalera of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Caitlin Joseph, former Dexter Farm to School Coordinator and WFPC Full Council Member.

We are currently looking to hire a Researcher for this portion of what will hopefully be a multi-stage project. A Request For Application for this position can be downloaded here and is also pasted below. Applications should be turned in electronically to by July 17th, 2015. Questions or comments about the project can also by directed to Caitlin.

Farm to Institution in Washtenaw County

Request for Application: Researcher

About the Project:

Washtenaw County Food Policy Council (WFPC)

The WFPC is a coordinated effort recognized by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners working toward the vision of a healthy community and thriving local food system that:

  • Provides access to healthy and culturally appropriate food for all residents

  • Values and preserves community land for food production

  • Maximizes the use of local, regional and seasonal food

  • Meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations

  • Promotes a food system that promotes economic development and a local economy within and around the food system

In July 2014, WFPC approved a Policy Agenda outlining and summarizing 23 main goals to support healthy, fair, affordable, and sustainable food in Washtenaw County. “Researching, analyzing and reporting on information about the local food system” is one of four core strategies employed by WFPC to work toward these goals and support a viable, economical and sustainable local food system in Washtenaw County.

Accelerating Farm to Institution in Washtenaw County

This research project is Phase 1 of WFPC’s efforts to address Policy Agenda item #12, which states: “encourage institutions to adopt policies and practices leading to the purchase of 20% of food products locally by 2020.”  Phase 1 research will provide an up to date outlook of farm-to-institution in Washtenaw County (including barriers and opportunities), in order to inform the development of high-impact projects to accelerate local food purchasing by institutions in Washtenaw County.

The intention is to catalyze farm-to-institution initiatives, thereby increasing support for local farmers and food sector businesses, ultimately helping to grow the local food economy, increase local food system jobs, ensure better access to good food, and increase local wealth by investing in our communities and local economy.

This project has been funded by a grant from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners as part of Public Act 88 Funding.

Goals of “State of the County: Farm to Institution in Washtenaw” Project:

  1. Conduct research on current progress, policies and infrastructure related to local food procurement in Washtenaw County by institutions in major sectors including K-12 schools, health care, colleges/universities, government agencies and correctional facilities.

  2. Identify, detail and provide a nuanced understanding of critical challenges preventing the expansion of local food purchasing by WC institutions; and

  3. Identify key levers, opportunities and evidence based approaches for addressing the critical barriers and challenges in order to increase local food procurement by WC institutions.

Researcher Job Description:

The Advisory Committee for this project is seeking a researcher to conduct a literature review, research design, implementation and reporting components of this project. The intention of the research is to:

  1. Assess, summarize and update what is known about the current practices, opportunities and barriers related to local food purchasing by institutions in Washtenaw County (WC);

  2. Produce report on Opportunities to Catalyze Local Food Procurement by Institutions in Washtenaw County. Report will provide an overview/synopsis of main barriers and opportunities revealed by current literature and will update the current outlook with additional detail focused on issues related to price within local purchasing and profitability for local farmers.

  3. Identify and report on key levers for change & actionable opportunities for increasing and accelerating local food purchasing by Washtenaw County institutions.

Responsibilities include the following:

  • Gather existing research, instruments and protocols, with regards to local farm to institution efforts and local food purchasing by institutions in Washtenaw County (WC), and surrounding region when applicable

  • Review, synthesize and summarize existing information; identify gaps and key areas for further inquiry to characterize the nuanced barriers, opportunities and levers for change in local food purchasing by WC institutions.

  • Work with Leadership Team and Advisory Committee to define specific research questions based on preliminary scoping and analysis.

    • The intention is for this project to build on existing research broadly characterizing barriers and opportunities by digging deeper into a select set of key issues identified.

  • Develop a mixed methods research plan, with appropriate instruments and protocols; conduct research to investigate defined research questions.

  • Create a written analysis of findings and recommendations.  Develop fact sheet summarizing key findings and recommendations.  Develop dissemination plan in collaboration with Leadership Team and participate in mutually agreed upon set of research dissemination activities.

Preferred Skills:

  • Strong understanding of institutional food supply chains, institutional foodservice operations and institutional purchasing

  • Knowledge of the components of a healthy food system

  • Familiarity with key stakeholders and supply chain players in local and regional food system for Washtenaw County

  • Strong data collection and analytical skills

  • Ability to build rapport and relationships in a short timeframe

  • Experience writing summary report based on research and analysis

  • Experience conducting a literature review

  • Ability to work independently to complete tasks, and work collaboratively both in-person and through virtual communication

Project Leadership

The Ecology Center and Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy are providing leadership for the coordination and implementation of this research project, with support from WFPC and key food system stakeholders who will serve in an advisory capacity.  The researcher will report to the project Leadership Team and work in collaboration with the project Advisory Committee.  The Leadership Team consists of Nicki Milgrom (Ecology Center), Caitlin Joseph (WFPC), and Lindsey Scalera (Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy).


The term of this research project is from date of hire to December 31, 2015.  Final deliverables are due no later than January 30, 2016.  This project is budgeted with a negotiable rate for the researcher position. Total project compensation range is $9,000 to $11,000, including any travel expenses and other costs associated with research activities and production of final project deliverables.

How to Apply:

Individuals interested in the research position should submit the following information to Caitlin Joseph, at, by July 17th, 2015:

  • A cover letter highlighting your interest, career experience and applicable skills

  • A current, updated professional resume or CV

  • A copy of or link to published research or related work you’ve authored/conducted

  • A brief proposal (no more than 1 page) outlining how you would approach the project, including preliminary scoping, key stakeholders/stakeholder groups to engage, basic research & analysis plan, and anticipated budget for your proposal