A growing trend at colleges across the country is the use of locally grown foods and produce for on-campus dining. Iowa State University is the latest to join the trend with its “Farm to ISU” program that is giving students the option to eat local farm foods and produce in university dining halls from Iowa companies .
Iowa Farmer Today reports that ISU's program has thus far been met with great success, but budget constraints and high volume demands from the university are posing a challenge.
ISU's homegrown food program stocks three primary food types. First, food that is purchased directly from local farmers. Second, food products made in the state of Iowa, which can include nationally sold brands like Cookie’s Barbecue Sauce or Blue Bunny Ice Cream. And third, food or produce that is organic or fair trade, such as fair trade coffee or organic granola bars.
While the support of locally grown food holds a great deal of promise for ISU's surrounding manufacturers and farmers, the sheer volume and usage that the university requires poses some challenges.
“One hurdle is the volume we need,” says Karen Rodekamp, manager of ISU dining food stores. "Another hurdle is the time frame. While many food products grown in Iowa reach maturity during the summer, the school year runs from late August to May."
For this reason, Rodekamp says the university buys a large number of Iowa apples and products from the university's own horticultural farm.
Another hurdle for the program has come in the form of university budget cuts. Last year, $1.48 million was spent through the Farm to ISU program out of a total food service budget of about $12.7 million. According to the report, that percentage has slipped, in part, due to budget constraints.