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.
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.