You can almost feel the excitement of going back to school in the air at college and university campuses across America. Back on campus, students are once again occupying dorms, waving their school colors at pep rallies, and filling up classrooms and lecture halls.
But while their consistent class attendance may be questionable—these are college kids, after all—one thing’s for sure: These students will be hungry.
And there's good news for students tired of the typical dining hall swill. More and more schools are following in the footsteps of UC Berkeley—whose dining hall became certified organic way back in 2006—and students’ options for healthy, sustainable meals on campus have never been better.
College students themselves deserve the credit for establishing better food options in dining halls. Through campus chapters of the Real Food Challenge campaign, students have successfully advocated for sustainable buying practices and more nutritious food offerings at more than 35 individual colleges or universities, as well as throughout the University of California and California State University systems.
Most of these schools have signed pledges with student groups to procure at least 20 percent of the food served on campus from local, sustainable, fair, and humane sources. A few schools, including University of California, Santa Cruz and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, pledged that 40 percent of campus food would be “real.” Since 2008, RFC chapters have convinced university stakeholders to shift $60 million to sourcing better ingredients on campus. Nationwide, the group hopes to shift $1 billion in funding to healthier food options.
This isn't a brand new trend, either—a number of colleges have been hard at work on their campus culinary culture for years. College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, has sourced local and organic foods—many from the school-owned farm down the road—since it opened in 1972. In Olympia, Washington, Evergreen State College’s aptly named dining hall “The Greenery” sources 35 percent of its food locally, and composts or donates any food waste that is created (we’re guessing there’s probably not much!). Vermont’s colleges and universities seem to be in their own league, however, with many of the state’s schools employing sustainable sourcing practices and drawing on their rural setting for local food procurement. Sterling College in Craftsbury claims to source nearly 100 percent of its food locally, including 20 percent from its on-campus farm.
The shift toward healthier college food follows the national trend of Americans becoming more concerned about the nutrition and source of what they eat. According to a report earlier this year from Morgan Stanley, millennials are even more discerning than their parents, and increasingly prefer meals that are “fresh, less processed and with fewer artificial ingredients.” Young people are also looking for foods from companies that have good social ethics, the report found.
Parents have enough to worry about when their kids go off to college. Isn’t it great to know that healthy eating isn’t as much a concern?
Photo credit: Piers Nye via Flickr