As people and businesses become more aware of their environmental impact through their purchases, there has been an increased emphasis on shopping locally. Penn State Food Services is no exception.
According to John Mondock, director of purchasing for Housing and Food Services, buying locally here in Pennsylvania is not only the right thing to do, but it is what the customers are asking for. “We try to buy as much locally as we can,” he said. “We do have to make sure we maintain cost initiatives for the University, but those items we have chosen to buy locally have also proven to be the best pricing opportunities.”
Currently, Food Services is partnering with the Hospitality Management program on a student grant project designed to pique the interest of local farmers and manufacturers in working with the University. The group is meeting with Pennsylvania vendors and farmers who have already partnered with Penn State to find out what makes their relationship successful. That information is then shared with other businesses that may be apprehensive about selling to Penn State. They also are doing research to determine what, if any, hurdles there are in working with the University.
There are many benefits to buying locally and this effort has been in place for quite some time, but it has been moving forward with increased vigor in the last five years. Buying locally not only supports the community, but also ensures a fresh and quality product. Since products are closer and delivery time is less, there is a smaller environmental impact.
Food Services offers a wide variety of local products available both at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses. “We utilize a local dairy and bread vendor at each campus,” explained Mondock. “We also work with a number of local Pennsylvania snack and chip vendors, as well as manufacturers for various products including pork, canned products, confectionaries, and many other items.”
Despite the many benefits, there are some challenges. For example, some vendors and farmers do not meet the necessary requirements to deal with the University, local products are sometimes more expensive, and a challenging growing season often limits the types of local produce available. However, Mondock stresses that these are things they are trying to move past. “We want to overcome as many of these hurdles as we can and make developing relationships easier,” he said.
Regardless, plans are in place to continue the effort to provide local products to customers. “We are very proud of the relationships we have built, especially when we find a mutually beneficial arrangement that meets both cost objectives for the University and provides a great product for our customers,” said Mondock.