The Ohio State University dining services has set a goal of serving 40 percent local or sustainably grown foods by 2025. This is an admirable goal, when you consider they have 17,000 students on their meal plan. Their definition of local foods is providing items grown within the state, according to Lesa Holford, associate director of residence and dining food service.
Due to volume of business, much of our produce arrives processed, however, with local produce, most of it comes to us whole and we have to process and sort. Kale may come in washed and chopped from our produce distributor, but will need cleaned and cut from our local partners. This takes time and planning, and we’ve become much better at this added labor. There’s also some supply and demand issues, you just have to be flexible and communicate to our staff, explained Holford.
To begin the process, I work with the vendors to find out what’s available, then I communicate our needs to vendors so they know what to grow and how much. I assist with processing when needed. I am always looking for opportunities to increase local food purchases. I work with our chefs if they need inspiration for items that may be available, but are not on their menu. Last year we had an abundance of delicata squash and we roasted and tossed in salads, served in vegetarian stations, and made stir fries with it. We have the capacity to cook many local foods, although, with some of the smaller vendors, that may only be able to deliver twice a week it does provide a challenges to our staff, she said.
Our students want to know where their food is coming from, they want to know that an institution like ours can provide that transparency. They respond positively and relate when they see pictures of staff in the fields, with produce that we’re serving on the line! Knowing that OSU has made an environmental and social impact, brings Holford much pride about her work.
The Office of Student Life Dining Services works with College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Science to procure beef, pork, and produce grown on our campuses farms. This year they grew three acres of vegetable garden at the Waterman farm. At the farm, more than 2,000 pounds of sweet corn was produced and frozen for dining services. In addition, they grew tomatoes, cucumber, jalapenos, basil, lettuce, eggplant, winter squash, and summer squash.
- Nearly 100% of their fresh chickens come from local farms in Wayne County. Majority of the farms are Amish owned.
- Majority of their liquid dairy (approximately 85%) come from local dairy farms. They support over 200 dairy farms in Ohio.
- Their goal for 2017 -2018 academic year is to serve nearly 100% Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable fish products.
- Received recognition in 2016 for distributing over 60,000 meals to Mid-Ohio food bank. They also work with OSU food pantry dedicated to students with food security concerns.
Ohio State recently hosted “World Food Day: Inspired by Local” to bring attention to the local and sustainable food choices in the dining facilities. Students sampled foods from 15 food suppliers including Gerber Chicken, Dannon, DNO Produce, Waterman Farms, and many others.