As part of its longstanding commitment to sustainability, Luther College has been working for years to contribute to the local food movement.
Luther’s Definition of Local and Community Based Food
Food raised or processed by farms, coops and businesses within a 100 mile radius for large farms, coops and businesses or a 200 mile radius for small to mid-size farmer-owned and operated farms/businesses. Foods considered local must also be minimally processed, produced in an environmentally sound way under fair labor conditions, and be procured from transparent farms and businesses open to hosting students for educational purposes.
Anderson Erickson Dairy: A historic producer in Des Moines, IA, using cows from Iowa’s family farms to make all things dairy. Most notably, they provide milk for Luther.
Country View Dairy: Family-owned and operated farmstead creamery specializing in “all natural” yogurt production.
Impact Coffee: Made in Decorah, IA, Impact Coffee is fair trade organic.
Iowa Food Hub: A non-profit that aims to connect people to food grown close to home. They provide various types of produce for Luther.
Luther Gardens: Luther College is proud to produce locally grown, organic food seasonally for its Dining Services locations on campus.
Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins: A local business located outside of Decorah, IA that specializes in landscaping and growing pumpkins and apples. Luther purchases many varieties of apples from Pinter’s.
Sno Pac Foods: Family-owned and operated organic farm and processing plant that produces and prepares frozen fruits and vegetables for regional and national markets. They provide frozen, organic vegetables for Luther.
WW Homestead Dairy: Collaboration of two family-owned dairy farms that produce and distribute a variety of “all natural,” non-homogenized, and rBST/hormone-free dairy products. They provide milk, cheese curds, soft serve, ice cream, and butter for Luther.
Food Purchasing Goals
1. Increase sustainable food purchasing in select food categories.
- Dairy – 75% local (all dairy – milk, yogurt, soft-serve, ice cream, cheese)
- Eggs – TBD
- Meat – 50% local (pork and beef)
- Poultry – 20% local (turkey and chicken)
- Produce – 25% local (non canned – SnoPac, Luther Gardens)
- Coffee and Tea – 98% Fair Trade
2. Improve nutritional environment in campus eateries (e.g. making water the default beverage).
3. Reduce food waste in all campus venues.
Core Food Values
Luther is responsible for purchasing food that complies with high safety standards in order to ensure consumer health. We recognize the seriousness of food-born illnesses and are committed to doing everything within our power to keep campus diners from getting sick. Kitchen staff members are trained in various aspects of food safety and we require a Sodexo-approved third party certification for all entities that sell food to Luther. More information on the certification process can be acquired from the General Manager and Purchasing Specialist in dining services.
One of the benefits of local sourcing is that the eater can have access to full knowledge of the source and production methods behind food being consumed. We strive to have identifiable sourcing of all food served at Luther College. We find incredible educational opportunities in opening up the food system to consumers, especially at a time when public access to food production methods is being reduced in many places. While we value third party certifications, like USDA Organic, our main goal is to connect students and consumers to the very farms that are sourcing our food in order to increase knowledge of the food system and make sure that practices align with our core food values. In cases when local is not possible, we value third party certification on products like coffee and chocolate to ensure fair treatment of workers and environmentally sustainable practices.
We do not expect good food to be “cheap” but Luther strives for affordability in its sustainable foods purchases. Since our primary “customers” are students paying for an educational experience, it is important to ensure that dining options are affordable for all, while also fairly compensating sustainable food providers. We recognize that paying more is a necessary part of increasing sustainable purchasing and we strive to maintain a premium of no more than 20 percent (for sustainable products over conventional products from the distributor). We work to model a sustainable foods program that is accessible to all, including K-12 schools, care facilities, and hospitals. We continue to explore ways of achieving affordability, such as increasing volumes in order to bring prices down and using products creatively (i.e. carcass utilization).
The fundamental mission of Luther College is education and we strive to maintain that focus in everything we do on campus. We believe that food service is not purely an operational matter but rather has the potential to be an educational experience. This education includes student farm visits, bringing producers to campus, and providing signage and other communications materials that tell the story of our food. These educational opportunities are all the more abundant when sourcing from farms within a day’s drive from campus. We strive to get students on every farm that sells food to Luther College and to have sustainable purchasing actively connected to the educational mission of the college.
Luther seeks to reduce energy usage by reducing the total miles of where food comes from. We prefer to work with producers who minimize fossil fuel usage by transporting products efficiently. This also includes preference for producers who use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, etc. We also value producers who keep track of their energy use, have a willingness to conduct Energy Audits, or purchase Energy Star.
Purchasing local food allows us to support the local economy and the viability of local food producers in the region. As the largest food purchaser in the region, we are in a position to play a significant role in the development of a regional food system. Many other things (education, transparency) are not possible if food is not sourced from within a day’s drive from campus. We are committed to generally reducing carbon emissions and food miles. Local food also allows us to eat seasonally by adjusting menus to make the best use of what’s available locally in any given season.
A commitment to environmental stewardship is a core value of Luther College and is even embedded in Luther’s mission statement with a call to be “joyful stewards of the resources that surround us.” We recognize that agricultural practices can be a significant source of environmental problems such as soil erosion and water pollution and we strive to support farmers who are good stewards of the land. While we value organic food, we picture something that goes “beyond organic” for a more holistic approach that strives for harmony between humans and the land community. We strive to reduce food waste. We prefer those who use minimal and recyclable packaging.
We seek food with minimal additives, preservatives, dyes, sweeteners, extra salt, etc. This also includes avoiding animal products where the feed has included antibiotics, ionophores, hormones, additives, fillers, or chemicals. We prefer cooking from scratch using whole ingredients and avoiding processed foods to increase the healthfulness of what we prepare and to ensure that we can confidently serve food to those with allergies without concern that an unknown additive will cause an allergic reaction.
Luther College’s understanding of sustainability is not merely environmental but also includes social justice, a value which is a central part of the current and historical identity of Luther. We strive to follow fair trade certifications, but more generally we want to be conscious of worker’s conditions, ensure that farmers are fairly compensated, and that child labor is avoided.
We look for a quality of food that appeals to students both in taste and aesthetics. We value food that will have a high demand and will be competitive with non-sustainable options.