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Portland State set to increase local food purchases
Author: Campus Sustainability Office
Posted: February 26, 2015

Local and sustainable food choices at Portland State will soon be on the rise, thanks to a revision to PSU’s dining services contract. 

Under the new amendment developed by the Campus Sustainability Office and PSU’s food services provider, Aramark, PSU Dining will increase total local and third-party certified food expenditures each by 5 percent annually, based on purchases made in 2014. 

In 2014, 39 percent of food purchases for PSU were local and 4 percent were organic. 

“Now that we’ve set a baseline for local and organic purchases, we’re looking to increase those numbers, which will help us reach broader campus sustainability goals while supporting our local economy at the same time,” said Jenny McNamara, PSU’s campus sustainability manager.

The new amendment defines a “local” purchase as food and beverage—excluding soda and candy products—that are grown, processed, or caught within Oregon and Washington. Third party certifications include USDA Organic, Fair Trade, Marine Stewardship Council Blue Ecolabel, and others. The 5 percent annual increase will continue until the contract expires in 2017. 

The contract revision also includes new stipulations to reduce waste from campus dining and catering services, including required compost collection and the promotion of a reusable to-go box program. 

Along with the contract revision, the project team developed a new system for tracking and reporting purchases. Progress toward the 5 percent annual increase goal will be measured independently in several different food categories, such as fruits and vegetables, dairy, poultry, and eggs, preventing a large purchase in one category from inflating the numbers in other categories and ensuring that local and organic purchases will be increased across all food categories. 

“Understanding and tracking where food products originated or were processed is not an easy task, but it should get easier over time.” said Ted McClain, food service director for Aramark. “PSU Dining staff have spent many hours poring over invoices and making calls to vendors like Sysco in order to get the information needed to measure our progress.”

As result of this process, PSU Dining now receives information about where the farms are located that provide the produce from Charlie’s Produce, the main produce provider on campus. 

“By asking our vendors for information about where and how food was produced, we should have ripple effects throughout the supply chain—making it easier to get transparent data in the future—but this will be a slow process,” said McClain.

PSU Dining is hosting two farmers markets for students this winter in Victor’s dining hall, and there is now an organic section in the Viking Food Court grab & go section. Expect to see more healthy, sustainable food options coming to campus soon.