How to get more local, organic, seasonal and sustainable food into dining halls on university campuses across the country seems to be an ongoing topic of discussion as the school year gets underway.  Some universities are making progress and shifting the traditional way of acquiring food to feed masses of hungry students who show up in the dining hall three times a day–at least–looking for something to eat.  Others, however, are still struggling to make the transition in the dining halls to good, clean and healthy food.  Below are some examples of successful transitions that will pave the way and become examples for other universities looking to make similar changes.


When the University of Virginia School of Architecture had the opportunity to renovate their Fine Arts Café, the project became more than a structural makeover.  A senior architecture student, Serena Weaver, got involved and dreamt up a new organic and local menu of foods for the new cafe.  To accomplish her goal, Weaver met with the University dining service company, Aramark, to discuss organic and local food sources for the café.  The café has since opened with the sustainable menu, taking advantage of the seasonal offerings at local Virginia farms and the success of the café has encouraged Aramark to look at reforming food services in dining halls across campus.  From this example at the University of Virginia, it can be seen that starting small, maybe not with the largest cafeteria on campus but a smaller café or quick eats station, is a positive step towards total dining services reform.


Campus sustainability has encouraged a number of universities to look at ways to slowly, but surely, integrate sustainable foods into the dining services.  Michigan State University is calling their exploration of the integration of sustainable foods into one dining hall, Yakeley Hall cafeteria, an experiment. But it is one that many students are responding to.  As students become more aware of food issues locally, nationally and internationally, more pressure is placed on universities to be a part of solution by providing organic and local options in the dining hall.  The Yakeley Hall cafeteria is attracting students from across campus because of the organic and local options, which shows that this experiment should be taken seriously and used to change more dining halls across campus.


At Emory University in Atlanta, a new sustainable food initiative has been enacted to replace 75 percent of its on campus food supply with local products by 2015.  This initiative has a particular relationship with Slow Food because the Sustainable Food Service education coordinator, Julie Shaffer is involved.  Shaffer is already making changes in dining services at Emory. A farm liaison has been hired to connect with local farmers throughout Georgia to bring in producers and providers to the campus.  Shaffer is also ensuring that the dining services at Emory practice the motto of good, clean and fair food for all by paying fair market price for their products.  But of course, Emory is acknowledging that there are some potential limits to this initiative. Dining services will not be able to provide students with their favorite foods year round if foods are only sourced from Georgia farms. As a result, Shaffer has made a commitment that the food will be from Georgia when available, and from surrounding states otherwise, continuing to lower food miles and practice a sustainable food system.


Hopefully, these three different examples, from different geographic areas can be an inspiration to other campuses around the country. Sustainable food programs can be adapted and implemented where possible and however appropriate on campuses across the country.