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Importance of Local Partnerships for University Housing and Dining

For University Housing and Dining, finding vendors to partner with to serve fresh, local food in on campus dining locations is a top priority. The team strives to provide quality and value to the on-campus dining experience for students. One of the many ways the team achieves this is their close partnership with local vendors. By working with these partners, the team is able to provide fresher, better-tasting foods and limit the environmental impact by reducing transportation distance. 

Numerous benefits are created by partnering with local vendors. One of the top reasons for a local partnership is quality. “Buying local is almost always a direct increase in quality, as the product is going to be fresher, while we cannot purchase every ingredient local, we try to when we can.” said Barry Greenberg, executive chef for University Dining. These purchases not only benefit the chefs preparing the meals, but also the students. As a result of this partnership, students are able to enjoy quality food from local vendors from any dining location on campus.  

Another benefit of this local partnership reducing environmental impact and supporting local businesses. Working to reduce carbon footprint, the dining team found that sourcing foods from local vendors traveled less “truck miles.” The reduction in this milage assists in limiting environmental impact as transportation distance is reduced. Additionally, supporting local vendors is also a priority, which has impacts far beyond just the initial partnership. Greenberg says he has seen a benefit in the community connections and relationships with the growers. In selecting local partners, the team looks a variety of aspects from reading product labels, viewing the product in-store, or word-of-mouth. "We often find out about new products by word-of-mouth, or a grower comes to see us with a great product,” said Greenberg. 

Greenberg has said the benefits of this partnership give University Housing and Dining something to be proud of. “Not only are we able to build a relationship with the grower, but we are also supporting their business and building a great partnership with the local community.”  

University Housing and Dining partners with over 20 different local farmers, orchardists, growers, and vendors. You can see the full list of partners and learn more at dining.uiowa.edu/sustainability.