By Kaitlin Haskins, Communications Manager (outgoing)

Posted January 30, 2015


We're hiring a researcher!

Contracted Food Service Action Project Request for Application: Researcher 


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About the Project

Farm to Institution New England (FINE)

FINE is a six-state network of non-profit, public and private entities working collaboratively to strengthen our food system by increasing the amount of New England-grown and processed food served in our region’s schools, hospitals, colleges and other institutions. FINE serves those at the forefront of the farm to institution movement in the region, providing a forum to connect and share ideas, models, resources and support. We partner with other local food advocates to conduct research, run pilot projects and convene learning communities in order to improve key elements of the supply chain, from production and processing to distribution and food service.

Contracted Food Service Action Project (CFSAP)

CFSAP is a multi-pronged, multi-year project coordinated by FINE. During Phase 1 of the project, we conducted research on the current progress, policies and infrastructure related to locally grown food procurement within two food service management companies (FSMCs), across four New England states, and in three sectors: colleges, public school districts, and hospitals. Two recent documents were produced during Phase 1: Food Service Management Companies in New England: Barriers & Opportunities to Local Food Procurement (report) and Leveraging Contracts for Local Food Procurement (fact sheet).

The goals of Phase 2 of the project are to:

  • Create a venue for experienced New England advocates, working in different institutional sectors, to regularly exchange detailed information about specific food service management company policies and procedures, and, through collaborative action, to become more effective in their dealings with food service management companies.  
  • Improve communications with food service management company representatives, their vendors and institutional customers to enhance transparent, regionally grown food purchasing by supply chain partners.
  • Conduct a food service management company Contract Evaluation and Technical Assistance Project to identify actionable opportunities to increase local food purchasing by New England institutions.  

Researcher Job Description

FINE is currently seeking a researcher for the FSMC Contract Evaluation and Technical Assistance component of the project. The intention of the research is to understand and outline the current and potential value of food service management in meeting the values-based purchasing goals of institutions as they relate to regional food procurement.

Value-based criteria might include social and environmental responsibility (including regionally grown foods sourcing), community wellness and nutrition, and other issues. The individual hired for this position will conduct research at two institutions selected by the CFSAP Advisory Board. This research will analyze financial and other costs and benefits associated with a variety of services offered by a FSMC and/or group purchasing organization (GPO).

Responsibilities include the following:

1. Gather existing models of institutional contracts from all three sectors (K-12, college and health care) that shift reliance on FSMC purchasing;

2. Review models and draft an institutional contract guidance document;

3. Conduct a comparative food cost analysis of independently operated vs. FSMC operated facilities including: separating components of budget: labor, management / fringe, food, value-based attributes, and other factors. Topics to research include:

  • The price and other values-based criteria used in purchasing a series of identified products that are considered “on-contract”. The values-based criteria might include geographic source of product, product growing practices, and fair labor standards;
  • The various components of the institution’s food budget (e.g.,food cost, formula used to determine labor allocation), as well as the factors used to determine an annual budget or contracted budget (e.g., adjustments for inflation, student population or hospital census changes);
  • The cost of labor in the overall dining services budget, including how and when labor is accounted for in certain metrics such as the cost per plate, the hourly-wage rate structure and worker benefits;
  • The value of unique culinary and management skill costs and contributions brought to the institution by the FSMC or GPO (including nutrition analysis, recipe development, and menu planning);

4. Gauge the responsiveness of the GPO or FSMC to requests for particular products or items with specific attributes (locally grown, sustainable, fair trade, etc.);

5. Create a written analysis of findings; and

6. Utilize findings to revise and further develop the FINE fact sheet into a comprehensive contract guidance “toolkit”: Leveraging Contracts for Local Food Procurement to serve as guidance for incorporating requests into contracts with FSMCs.  

The researcher will report to the FINE Leadership Team project liaison and work in collaboration with the project Advisory Board and the FINE Farm to College project. It will be important for the researcher to be aware of the sensitive nature of this project and the importance of building and maintaining productive communications with target institutions. 

Preferred Skills

  • Strong understanding of institutional purchasing
  • Strong knowledge and past experience working with purchasing contracts that include volume discounts
  • Knowledge of the components of a healthy food system  
  • Understanding of value-based vs priced-based purchasing
  • Strong data collection and analytical skills
  • Ability to build rapport and relationships in a short timeframe
  • Summary report writing based on research and analysis

Researcher Compensation

The term of this project is proposed to run four months from date of hire. This project is budgeted with a negotiable rate for the researcher position. Total project compensation range is $6,500 to $7,200, in addition to approved travel expenses.

Request to Apply

Individuals interested in the research position should submit the following information by February 22, 2015 to the project assistant, Kaitlin Haskins, at [email protected]:

  • A cover letter highlighting your career and skills applicable to this position
  • A current, updated, professional resume
  • A copy of or link to authored published research or related work

Contact Information

For additional questions or inquires, please contact FINE project Leadership Team Liaison Stacia Clinton at [email protected].