How local is local? Gardening at the RPAC

Ohio State has made great strides in making its dining facilities more sustainable, but what about its foods? Although Ohio State currently buys 30 percent of its food from local sources, there is room for OSU to incorporate more local, as well as organic foods. By integrating these sustainable foods into its dining operations, OSU can only further emphasize its commitment to ensure a more sustainable, eco-friendly campus.

To help expand Ohio State’s dedication to sustainable practices, our group decided to research the possibility of restarting an organic garden at the university’s Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC). This garden would not only provide a limited supply of produce for RPAC’s dining facility, Courtside Café, but also serve as a case study on how local and organic foods affect a university community. In our research, we found that, together, local and organic foods can inspire wellness, education, and a sense of community.

Since the RPAC is already conducive to wellness, implementing nutritional options at the facility would only emphasize its mission. The dining facility, Courtside Café, serves 2,000 customers daily, so the switch to organic and local foods would reach a wide audience. Since college students are transitioning to independent food choices, this proposal hopes to create more positive attitudes towards sustainable foods.

In our research, we found that many universities around the country have already incorporated local and organic foods into their on-campus dining facilities. The benefits that these universities have experienced range from social to economic benefits in the long run. Along with these human benefits, many schools also experience a total reduction of carbon emission from transporting food, which provides an environmental incentive for the university’s reputation. By following these examples, Ohio State can also reap the multiple benefits of local and organic foods.

Food court at Ohio State's RPAC. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Photo from Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OSU_RPAC_Food_Court.JPG

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