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

Sustainable Living Hub: Food

A students picks fruit at the OU student farm.
Banner and above photo by Zoe Cranfill

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.

Neighborhood 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! Projects in the food theme can be found here.

Food Category, Draft 2021 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan
Food Category, Draft 2021 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Page 2

How we're doing

A graph showing local food spending by the university. The percentage of food purchased by the university that is considered local was 16 percent in fiscal year 19, up from 12 percent in fiscal year 14.

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.

Cats' Cupboard

The Cats’ Cupboard food pantry provides students access to fresh, frozen, and shelf stable food options to help with hunger.  Cats' Cupboard is located in Baker University Center, room 514.

The Cats’ Cupboard Food Pantry offers twice monthly pick-up of free food from the pantry. Pantry members can shop in person or fill out an order form and have their bags pre-packed.

Access to the pantry is provided by appointment.

Culinary Services Food Emissions Reporting

Hub Related Initiatives

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.

Bobcats Helping Bobcats: Meal Bank

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. 

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


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

Culinary Local Product Logo

Local food is defined as foods that are grown, raised, and processed within 250 miles of Ohio University. However, OU gives preference to Neighborhood Local Products, which are defined as foods that are grown, raised, and processed within 100 miles of OU. 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!


Culinary Neighborhood Product Logo

To learn more about what they're doing, head to their website(opens in a new window).

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 Campus and 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.

More information here.

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.

Ohio University Experts

Name:  Contact:  Description:
Dr. Kim Thompson thompsk3@ohio.edu Sustainable Living Hub Coordinator

Heather Harmon


Food insecurity

Shweta Chopra


Sustainable food systems

Gwyn Scott


Local food procurement

David Rosenthal 


Ecological genetics; invasion biology; physiological ecology; global change

Michele Morrone


Environmental justice; food safety; Appalachian and rural environmental health

Elaine Goetz goetze@ohio.edu Director of Energy Management and Sustainability