UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

How UNC’s Food for All theme relates to business

Food for All LogoThe campus-wide Food for All theme is intended to be explored in every department, leaving room for constructive dialogue about the role of food in society from as many angles as possible.

The Food for All theme is, of course, relevant to business studies – particularly sustainable business. Food is relevant to everyone. However, the topic of food in our world is so multifaceted and it can be difficult to determine the exact components of food that are linked with business.

Claire Hannapel, a senior interdisciplinary studies major who serves on the Food for All steering committee, notes that businesses of all kinds are more regularly seen as key stakeholders in these major food issues. “There’s great power in being able to read the consumer and find ways to revitalize communities through direct and immediate action,” she says.

So what matters to us business students? As an Undergraduate Business student and self-proclaimed foodie, I find the Food for All theme endlessly fascinating. Below I detail three (of many) approaches to food through the lens of a businessperson.

One major aspect the University has focused on is that food is a global issue. Food is a vital resource no matter where you are in the world – thus raising questions of scarcity, allocation and resource depletion. In many ways, the private sector is responsible for allocating this scarce resource. Agribusiness, food processing, grocery stores and restaurants are examples of food-centric businesses that shape the global economy. In the U.S. alone, food accounts for $790 billion of our GDP. The growing, selling and buying of food is on every adult’s mind the world over – especially the world’s business people.

Consumer preferences
Food also matters when it comes to consumer preferences and knowing your customer. Everyone eats, and most people buy food on a daily basis. Again, the private sector plays a crucial role in providing customers what they want to eat when they want it. Whether that means having a fully stocked vending machine in a university library or a vegetable cart in rural China, businesses assess consumer tastes to supply food when it’s demanded. This applies to agriculture as well. How much coffee should be grown? Apples? Quinoa? Businesses have an important role in utilizing the world’s arable land to provide sufficient food for consumers.

Perhaps the most important roles food plays in business are providing sustenance and nourishing human capital. Without food, we would have no workers – and without workers, we wouldn’t have business. This includes everyone from top executives to entry level workers across the globe. I find that the role of food plays as “brain food” for the world’s workers to be underrated yet crucial to the success of the global economy. Every industry – agriculture, technology, pharmaceuticals, etc. – employs millions of people, all of whom have a universal need for food. Well-nourished workers are more productive – something that all business people should keep in mind.

As the Food for All initiative progresses, I urge all business students to investigate how food impacts their areas of interest, keeping in mind the global interconnectedness of food, consumer tastes and the relation between food and labor. You may also be interested in Food Con, an annual event hosted by UNC Kenan-Flagler and Duke Fuqua.

Learn more about the Food for All theme here.

By Abigail Barnhill (BSBA ’16)