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A Student’s Guide to Local Food

A Student’s Guide to Local Food

With the new school year underway, many students are wondering how they can find local foods as they go away to college for the first time. And, those who are returning might be wondering how to make sure there are more†local choices available on campus.

As I have written about before,†there is an ambitious, student-run initiative called the Real Food Challenge that is working to increase the procurement of real food on college and university campuses. Their motto is “Uniting Students For Just And Sustainable Food.”

Real Food Challenge points out that colleges and universities spend over $4 billion each year on food, making up a significant portion of the national food system. With a large share of the market, young people have a unique chance to directly influence this system because they have power, they are the ones eating cafeteria food every day, and their voices and choices matter.

Students really are making a real impact on food issues on campuses. The Real Food Challenge has over 350 institutions listed on their site that have already adopted local food initiatives and have “greened” their dining halls and cafeterias by offering locally grown food. They have done this by starting college farms, creating fair trade initiatives or farm-to-cafeteria programs, and some have even opened farm stores and farm stands†like the one at Cal Poly Pomona.

There are also other sustainable groups and initiatives working to get schools to purchase from†local farmers.† One of these is a Farm to College Program. These programs connect colleges and universities with local producers to provide local farm products for meals and special events.

The Community Food Security Coalition is a great resource for information about Farm to College Programs. They not only list some current programs that are bringing farm fresh food to their schools, but also provide all the tools and resources you need to get going.

Aside from dining facilities that source local food, another option is to buy from a farmers’ market. There are an increasing number of colleges and universities that have on-campus farmers’ markets including UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz (my alma mater has its Farm and Garden Market Cart), UC San Diego, Stanford, Rice, Boston University, Harvard, Brown, Purdue, Portland State, and the University of Minnesota.

Don’t have a farmer’s market on campus? Find one near campus through the USDA or Local Harvest.

Another option is to subscribe to a CSA.†With a CSA you buy “shares” from a farmer that you pay for up front to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation. In return, you get a box of fresh vegetables that is usually delivered each week.

Depending on the area your campus is located in, you can either pick up the box at the farm, or a certain pick-up location, which is delivered on specific days and times. Many farmers’ markets are also acting as CSA pick up locations. Local Harvest also has a list of CSAs.

Many colleges and universities have also started their own community gardens as a way to bring fresh and local produce to campus. Next week, I will explore some of these campus gardens.

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Read more: Community Service, Conscious Consumer, Do Good, Eating for Health, Environment, Food, Make a Difference, Nature, , , ,

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


+ add your own
8:11AM PST on Jan 17, 2012

"Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." Hippocrates
we must light up the darkness for knowledge is not power its empowering lets all be empowered to change. life has value beyond measure
Peace and Love

5:52AM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

Thanks for the article.

10:55AM PDT on Sep 13, 2011


12:40AM PDT on Sep 10, 2011

Just make sure it's real food first. Then make sure you're showing good prep skills to do it.

1:50AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

Good move! May students make make healthier food choices.

12:58PM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Live food is essential to all....I applaud the youth of America!

11:22AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Thank you,good ideas.

8:34AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Let me see if I understand this correctly.

Here we have an educational facility, a place to nurture the mind.

Why do we have to develop a process that goes to properly nurture the body, that should be like providing books, a natural.

Many of America's schools provide the students with food that is not fit for a pig and then everyone wonders why there is a pronounced increase in obesity, diabetes, and poor student attention.

Such programs should be installed on the national level, eat well or not at all. Harsh, not really, yet, we are starting to realize it, so very late in the game.

8:20AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

I'll be in college next year, but I just can't wait!
The availability of local food is very important ot me. I'm considering going to Boston, but in Massachusetts, they don't grow as much as I'm used to here in NJ...

5:00AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Good to know. Thanks for sharing.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

some great ideas, thanks for sharing. I'm going to try nº 4 , sounds very yummy :)

Thanks for the article.

Thanks. And I'm with Nimue.

Some great tips in there, but I wouldn't fancy the apple and peanut butter tower as it looks a bit s…


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