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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Micheal Moffat
Past Member 6 years ago

"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

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago


Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

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

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec6 years ago

Good move! May students make make healthier food choices.

Suzanne H.
Suzanne H6 years ago

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

Penny C.
penny C6 years ago

Thank you,good ideas.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

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.

Megan S.
Megan S6 years ago

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...

Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Good to know. Thanks for sharing.