Students should seek locally grown foods

By Kara Mercer

Students should use the many resources the DeKalb community offers to learn about and consume locally grown food if they want to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Buying locally grown food is a healthier option for students on and off campus. Sustainably produced fruits and vegetables are often fresher, as they do not require long distance transport and can be harvested closer to peak ripeness which is when food contains the most nutrients, according to the Grace Communications Foundation’s website. Grace Communications Foundation is an organization dedicated to raising awareness on the environmental and public health issues brought about by industrial food systems and tries to present alternatives to the public, according to its website.

Students who do not live on campus can soon use the website “Buy Local DeKalb”, which will feature a map to show consumers where to find organic products within 50 miles of DeKalb, according to an April 11 Northern Star article.

Until the website launches in May, students can walk over to the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons for healthy lunch options. Jim Casey, Rolling Harvest Food Truck owner, uses locally sourced produce to bring delicious and healthy food to NIU students at an affordable price, according to its website. The Rolling Harvest Food Truck is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday in the MLK Commons.

Students with meal plans can still eat locally grown food because Dining Services hopes to incorporate more ingredients grown in the community garden and feature it on menus in the residence halls, said Residential Dining director Richard Fritz.

“One of the pieces that [Housing and Dining is] working with is the local community garden that we have on campus,” Fritz said. “It’s the idea that we teach sustainability to our students.”

The Communiversity Gardens is located on the east side of Anderson Hall and is part of a network of gardens that make up the DeKalb County Community Gardens. One purpose of the garden is to increase education about sustainable farming practices and the importance of locally grown food production, according to the NIU website.

The DeKalb Food Hub is an establishment that will buy vegetables or fruit produced by local growers and sell it to buyers like grocery stores or NIU, said Melissa Burlingame, former program coordinator for the Institute for Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy.

I encourage NIU to partner with the DeKalb Food Hub once it opens so NIU can provide more locally grown food to students living in the residence halls.

Also, a farmer’s market on campus would be a great way to promote the “Buy Local Dekalb” website and get students interested in locally grown food production.

“I would personally love to have a farmer’s market,” said Roger Jones, junior environmental studies major. “… It’s one of the things I was missing from home.”

Plenty of resources are currently available to students so they can begin their search for locally grown produce to incorporate into meals with more resources coming in the future. Students should learn about different produce options so they can choose healthier food that will lead them to a healthier lifestyle.