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A tomato grows at the OU student farm.
Sustainable Living Hub: Food

Sustainable Living Hub: Food

About Sustainable Food

Sustainable food systems advance agricultural and purchasing practices that benefit the local economy, protect local and global environments, and support the health and wellbeing of our local population. Ohio University gives purchasing preference to Neighborhood Local Products, those foods that are grown, raised and processed within 100 miles of our campuses, for their markets and dining venues.

Culinary Local Product Logo

OHIO's Office of Sustainability works with partners such as Ohio University Culinary Services, the OHIO Student FarmCats’ Cupboard, the Athens Farmers Market, Rural Action’s Chesterhill Produce AuctionCommunity Food Initiatives, and the Farm to OHIO Working Group. More information about important local food initiatives can be found below.

Sustainability Project Laboratory Logo




The Sustainability Project Laboratory is a database of sustainability-related project proposals. This resource hosts projects and project ideas that can be adopted by faculty, staff, and students for course projects, capstone or senior projects, theses, and more! 

Search "Food" in the Project Database search bar on the Sustainability Project Laboratory page to find projects related to the food theme.

2017 Food Infographic: all text and graphics are outlined in the page content.
The 2017 Food infographic outlining progress towards the 2011 sustainability benchmarks and new goals set for fiscal year 2026. Find the information in the tabs "Where we are now (2017): Progress toward 2011 Sustainability Plan," "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #1," and "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2."

The 2017 Food infographic outlining progress towards the 2011 sustainability benchmarks and new goals set for fiscal year 2026. Click the tabs below to learn more! 

2017 Food Infographic: all text and graphics are outlined in the page content.
The 2017 Food Infographic listing the AASHE STARS initiatives to implement and/or maintain. Find the information in the tab "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2."

Current Data

A bar graph showing the percentage of local food spending done by the Univeristy over time.
Local food vendors are categorized as vendors within 250 miles. Neighborhood vendors are within 100 miles. Ohio Univeristy's local and neighborhood food vendors account for 39% of its total food vendors. FY21 and FY22 are low due to strains from the COVID-19 pandemic, however FY23 is starting off stronger than both of the previous years!


Accessibility View of Food Graphics

Where we are now (2017): Progress toward 2011 Sustainability Plan

  • Benchmark 14: Increase purchase of local food. Target exceeded. 12% increase as opposed to 2% proposed.​

  • Benchmark 30: Provide information to diners regarding sustainability-attributes of food options. Target met.

Food Graphics

STARS Food Comparison
AASHE STARS compares programs across the nation in many different categories. Ohio University reports above the national average in food.
Ohio University Emissions Breakdown
At Ohio University, food (dark grey) makes up about 8% of the total carbon emissions of Ohio University. Reported emissions from food services are underestimated, and therefore, they could amount to greater than 8%.

Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #1

Goal 1: Support the local (as defined by AASHE STARS) food economy with preference to "neighborhood food" (food grown or processed with 100 miles of the Athens Campus) products from 15% to 16%.

Potential Strategies​

  • Create baselines and develop goals for "neighborhood food" purchasing and food business spend in FY20​

  • Develop or maintain sustainability initiatives which advance the goals and strategies of Culinary Services​

  • Continue Farm to OHIO Working Group ​

  • Promote 30 Mile Meal specials in Latitude 39​

  • Utilize FoodPro data labeling and analysis 

Benefits of Goal #1 

  • Increased community engagement and economic activity
  • Reduced emissions
  • Increased positive reputation to attract and retain students, as well as Ohio University's national leader of food health
  • Increased soil regeneration
  • Human health benefits, including healthier campus members and potential insurance benefits

Costs of Goal #1

  • Labor costs
  • Operation and management costs
  • Staff time
  • Certification costs
  • Business modification costs

Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2

Goal 2: Promote mindful foods choices; collaborate with communities to provide education on impacts of food choices by implementing the following initiatives:

  • Host a farmers' market, community supported agriculture (CSA) or fishery program, or urban agriculture project, or support such a program in the local community​
  • Host a sustainability-themed food outlet on-site, either independently or in partnership with a contractor or retailer​
  • Support disadvantaged businesses, social enterprises, and/or local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through its food and beverage purchasing​
  • Host low impact dining events or promote plant-forward options​
  • Have a vegan dining program that makes diverse, complete-protein vegan options available to every member of the campus community at every meal​
  • Inform customers about low impact food choices and sustainability practices through labelling and signage in dining halls​
  • Participate in a competition or commitment program and/or use a food waste prevention system to track and improve its food management practices​
  • Implement trayless dining (in which trays are removed from/not available in dining halls) and/or modified menus/portions to reduce post-consumer food waste​
  • Donate food that would otherwise go to waste to feed people​
  • Divert food materials from the landfill, incinerator or sewer for animal feed or industrial uses​
  • Have a pre-consumer composting program​
  • Have a post-consumer composting program​
  • Utilize reusable service ware for “dine in” meals​
  • Provide reusable and/or third party certified compostable containers and service ware for “to-go” meals (in conjunction with an on-site composting program)​
  • Offer discounts or other incentives to customers who use reusable containers instead of disposable or compostable containers in “to-go” food service operations​

Potential Strategies​

  • Create Culinary Services operating guidelines which outline sustainability priorities, goals and strategies (including AASHE STARS initiatives)​

  • Embark on marketing and educational campaigns for mindful food choices​

  • Continue high impact, low cost, community-engaged programs (CSA, Discovery Kitchen)  as well as other programs which promote mindful food choices​

  • Create food programming impact database & annual report​

Benefits of Goal #2

  • Increased community engagement and economic activity
  • Reduced emissions
  • Increased positive reputation to attract and retain students, as well as Ohio University's national leader of food health
  • Improved and informed consumer choices

Costs of Goal #2

  • Staff time
  • Operation and management costs


Hub Initiatives

Hub Supported Initiatives

The OHIO Student Farm

The OHIO Student Farm is one of the hidden gems of Ohio University.  Located behind the Innovation Center at 338 West State Street, Athens OH, 45701, the farm includes production and teaching areas.

The facility encompasses approximately two acres of planted space, mostly vegetables, and some small grains. The garden also has a variety of perennials, including grapes, hops, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, horseradish, and of course, lots of bamboo. Herbs and a selection of medicinal plants and planted for teaching use. Learn more details on the OHIO student farm

Campus Free Food

Cats’ Cupboard

The Cats’ Cupboard food pantry provides students access to fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable food options to help with hunger.

The Cats' Cupboard Food Pantry provides free food from the pantry twice a month. Pantry members can shop in person or fill out an order form to have their bags pre-packed. Cats' Cupboard is located in Baker University Center, room 514. Access to the pantry is provided by appointment. Learn More About the Cats' Cupboard

The Farm to OHIO Working Group (FOWG)

The Farm to OHIO Working Group (FOWG) is an initiative of Dr. Theresa Moran's Sugar Bush Foundation grant with community partners Rural Action and Community Food Initiatives. This group is comprised of the grant partners in addition to Culinary Services, the Office of Sustainability, and the Center for Community Engagement.

To date, the FOWG has had many successes including the creation of a new metric for local food called the OHIO Neighborhood, the GAP Certification of 6 area farms, and the purchasing of over $10,000 of food from the Chesterhill Produce Auction during the summer of 2019. This group continues to meet monthly and expand the programming both on and off campus to support local food procurement at Ohio University.

Learn More About the Farm to OHIO Working Group

The 2022 Farm to Institution Midwest Summit was held the week of February 28 - March 2, 2022.  All presentations can be found on the Summit YouTube playlist.

Culinary Services Food Emissions Reporting

The Culinary Services Food Emissions Reporting Initiative is a great example of Ohio University's commitment to sustainability. This initiative was created to track the purchase and emissions of every piece of food purchased by the university and to report them through the SIMAP platform (access past Ohio University data on SIMAP by clicking on "categories" below the website to find food-specific information). In 2018, the office of sustainability partnered with Culinary Services to write a PACE proposal to hire a student food analyst, Andy Mayse, whose job was to partner with Culinary Services to tag all food purchases in the Food Pro platform with SIMAP tags. This initiative was successful, as Culinary Services now tags and tracks all food purchases on their own and reports them to the office of sustainability each spring. This is a fantastic example of how Ohio University is actively taking steps to reduce its carbon emissions and create a more sustainable environment.

Hub Related Initiatives

Bobcats Helping Bobcats: The Meal Bank Program

The Meal Bank program is a way for students to share meals from a campus meal plan with fellow students experiencing hunger. Culinary Services facilitates a donation period to collect meal donations from students and then distributes them directly to Meal Bank users’ OHIO ID cards for use in campus dining venues. To access meals from the Meal Bank, sign up to be a member of the Cats' Cupboard Food Pantry.

Athens Farmers Market

Rated one of the best markets in all of Ohio, the Athens Farmers Market offers tremendous variety and high quality altogether in one place including meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, prepared foods, pies and pastries, traditional and specialty bread, coffee, wine and cider, jams, jellies and preserves, pickled and fermented vegetables, honey and maple syrup, fudge and candies, live plants and seeds, cut flowers and flower arrangements, succulent plants, vegetable seedlings, and hand crafts.

SATURDAYS 8:30am - noon, year-round
WEDNESDAYS 8:30am - noon, April through Nov.

1002 East State Street, Athens, Ohio

Community Free Food

  • Athens County Food Pantry 
    • Distributed at:
      Athens County Job and Family Services 
      • State Route 13 Millfield, OH 
  • Monday 
    • First United Methodist Church | 12:00-1:00 pm 
      • 2 S. College St. Athens, OH | 740.593.3977  
  • Tuesday 
    • Athens Church of Christ | 5:30 p.m.  
      • 785 W. Union St. Athens, OH | 740.593.7414
    • Tavolino Restaurant | 11:00 am-2:00pm 
      • 9 N Shafer Street
  • Wednesday  
    • United Campus Ministry (UCM) | 12 p.m.  
      • 18 N. College St. Athens, OH | 740.593.7301  
    • Friends and Neighbors Community Ctr. | 12 p.m.  
      • 24576 Parkersburg Rd. Coolville, OH | 740.667.0684  
  • Thursday  
    • United Campus Ministry (UCM) | 5:00 - 7:00 pm
      • 18 N. College St. Athens, OH | 740.593.7301  
    • The HIVE | 6:30 p.m.  
      • 39 W. Columbus St. Nelsonville, OH  
    • Christ Community Wesleyan Church  
      • 6275 Kenney Memorial Ln. Albany, OH  
      • Every Third Thursday | 740.698.2292  
  • Friday  
    • Good Works | Call ahead for directions | 4:30 p.m.  
      • Location of meal changes seasonally | 740.594.3339  
    • The Plains United Methodist Church | 5:30 p.m.  
      • 3 N. Plains Rd. The Plains, OH
  • Saturday 
    • United Campus Ministry | 1:00 - 3:00 pm 
      • 18 North College Street, Athens, 740-593-7301 
  • First Day of each Month
    • Food Not Bombs Athens |Free meal & other resources| 12:00pm -1:30pm at Arts West 
      • 132 W State Street

Green Certification at Atrium Café

The Atrium Cafe is an independent eatery supported by the College of Health Sciences and Professions. With an emphasis on health and sustainability, the Atrium Cafe is a focal point for the Division of Food and Nutrition as well as a showcase for the School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness. The Atrium has been designated a Certified Green Restaurant — the only one in Southeastern Ohio. For more information on Green Certification check out the Green Restaurant Association.

WellWorks CSA/Produce Buying Club

The WellWorks CSA program began in 2011 with Shade River Organic Farm serving as the provider. Vegetables and herbs were delivered weekly to CSA supporters at Ohio University. This program was created in an effort to ensure our employees and members had easy access to local, nutrient-dense food. 

In 2018 Shade River Organic Farm elected not to continue their relationship with the WellWorks CSA, so the University sought a suitable replacement through a county-wide Request for Qualifications (RFQ). Rural Action's Buying Club submitted the winning "bid" and the Buying Club model was first utilized in Summer 2018 at Ohio University and will continue until at least in 2022.

Reusable To-Go Container Program

The Reusable To-Go Container program is a sustainability initiative that was first piloted with 300 students during spring semester 2018. The program allows students to opt-in for a one-time fee of $5 that allows them to fill a reusable to-go container at a variety of on campus dining locations, and then exchange the container for a clean one to use on their next visit.

Baker Edible Garden Project

The Baker Center Edible Garden was created in 2018 as a way to use university green space in a more productive manner. Food grown in the garden has been sold to the community through the Ohio University student farm produce sales. The Plant Club has been working with landscape coordinator Susan Calhoun to help maintain the garden.

Culinary Services

OHIO's Culinary Services is one of the largest self-operated, non-franchised college dining services in the nation. They are vigilant about decreasing food waste, increasing local food purchases, and sustainable construction, and have been awarded numerous sustainability awards.

Some of their sustainable initiatives include:

  • Local food purchasing
  • Reducing food waste and composting what is wasted
  • Increasing efficiencies through central production
  • Providing students with the option to donate unused flex meals to the community
  • Offering "Zero Waste" catered meals

In 2015, Culinary Services won the Bronze level NACUFS Sustainability award in the waste management category. OHIO Culinary Services also operates 3 LEED certified dining halls and markets:

  • District on West Green – LEED Gold
  • Nelson Court – LEED Silver
  • Jefferson Marketplace – LEED Silver

Local food is defined as foods that are grown, raised, and processed within 250 miles of Ohio University. However, OHIO gives preference to Neighborhood Local Products, which are defined as foods that are grown, raised, and processed within 100 miles of OHIO. This supports the local economy, instead of large corporations, and farmers in our Appalachian region, allowing them to continue creating more product and increases the amount of healthy, local food available for all. It is more cost effective than eating food that's out of season and from thousands of miles away. Choosing local products also lowers your carbon footprint which is better for the environment and ensures freshness of the food!

Learn More About Culinary Services

Ohio University Experts on Sustainable Food

Experts on Sustainable Food

Name: Contact: Description:
Kyle Butlerbutlerk@ohio.eduSustainable Living Hub Coordinator
Heather Harmonharmonh@ohio.eduFood insecurity
Shweta Chopraschopra@ohio.eduSustainable food systems
Gwyn Scottscottg@ohio.eduLocal food procurement
David Rosenthal rosentha@ohio.eduEcological genetics; invasion biology; physiological ecology; global change
Michele Morronemorrone@ohio.eduEnvironmental justice; food safety; Appalachian and rural environmental health
Elaine Goetzgoetze@ohio.eduDirector of Energy Management and Sustainability