Colleges across the northeast are trying to incorporate local food into their dining and educational programs, but how are they doing it? These three case studies featuring Vermont colleges highlight successful and diverse approaches to values-based and local/regional food purchasing. We intentionally chose to feature an independently-operated dining program and two programs operated by different food service management companies to represent the diverse management arrangements found on Vermont campuses. The results are case studies that are partly stories – of how each campus progressed to their current local food purchasing and practices – and partly illustrations of best practices that are key to their success and could be implemented on other campuses. Mostly, these case studies are an opportunity for Vermont colleges to learn from and inspire each other’s local food programs.
These case studies were inspired by the Vermont Farm to Plate Report, “Opportunities and Barriers to Greater Local Food Procurement in Vermont Higher Education Food Service,” in which 12 of the 21 higher education food service operations in Vermont were interviewed about the strategies that enable them to utilize local foods. Based on the report, NOFA-VT and the Vermont Agency of Food, Agriculture and Markets (as part of Vermont Farm to Plate’s Farm to Institution Task Force) compiled these case studies to feature successful and diverse approaches to values-based and local/regional food purchasing. Through the interview process it became clear that each institution was so unique that simply explaining a single practice they use to procure and serve local food would not tell the whole story. As such, we expanded the scope of each case study to offer a more holistic view of the institution’s local food program. It takes more than a single conversation with one person on a campus to understand a food program holistically and as such, we spoke with dining directors, faculty and staff members, and college administrators to learn their local food stories.