For dining, U should look local

Locally grown food works in K-12 schools. So why not in colleges?

by The Editorial Board

ItâÄôs not often several problems can be solved with one solution. But by incorporating more locally produced food into its menus, the University of Minnesota could help fight obesity in giving students healthy food and expand the market for small producers struggling to compete with big agriculture, thereby keeping more money in the state.

Last week, a University researcher issued a report about what would happen if Minnesota K-12 schools put more locally grown food on menus. Results show the economic impact would be decidedly positive for localities that might offer it. If, for instance, a school district put a single locally produced meal on the menu once a month, the local economic impact could be $20,000 in that month. Large-scale introduction of local products could generate $427,000.

The study did not look at the impact on a university. But itâÄôs easy to see the opportunity the University has to feed its students better food and at the same time invest in local businesses. The University already has several programs in place to put
local foods into its facilities, with 16 partnerships withlocal farmers and producers.

In part, thatâÄôs because in the UniversityâÄôs 2008 agreement with food-service provider ARAMARK, the Philadelphia-based company made a commitment to offer locally grown products. ItâÄôd sure be fresh if the University and ARAMARK got together to offer even more.