A Google search on “Portland State food sustainability” will generate over two million search responses, including projects, institutes, solution generators and more. Yet our campus food system is far from sustainable. And in a city that prides itself on a foodie-centric culture and innovative solutions, PSU ought to not only keep up with the Jones’, but get ahead.
There’s a community garden on campus, yet the produce doesn’t go toward the food that’s served in our dining halls. It serves as a wonderful way to teach and enable the 40 students granted plots to grow their own food, but what about the other 25,000 students? Where’s their opportunity to access fresh, local, healthy food while on campus?
The Viking Food Court serves pizza, pasta, soups, salads, bagels and coffee not from local businesses and farmers but instead from national chains and non-sustainable sources. Placing an emphasis on recyclable plastic ware, composting, and serving beef, milk and eggs from Oregon farms is a step in the right direction, but it won’t get us the whole way.
The University of Montana’s Farm to College program ensures that at least 15 percent of campus food comes from vendors around the state. Stanford University purchases at least 40 percent of their campus food from local and organic sources. Who’s to say that PSU, given its proximity to an abundance of farmland, can’t meet or beat these same numbers?
The city of Portland prides itself on being a leader in innovation and sustainability, and as the city’s biggest university, it’s time that PSU harnesses its resources and takes a giant leap forward in promoting progressive change with a national model for a sustainable on-campus food system.