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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.

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

The local food spending by Ohio University between FY14 to FY19
Ohio University's local food spending has increased from 12% in FY14, to 15% in FY17, to 16% in FY19.

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 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 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 Director of Energy Management and Sustainability