By Hannah Leighton, Research & Evaluation Manager

Posted March 18, 2019


Take a Sneak Peek of the 2018 New England Campus Dining Survey Results!

Featured photos courtesy of Bates College

FINE is getting ready to release the full results of our 2018 New England Campus Dining Survey and we are excited to share a sneak peak of the findings here!

The 2018 survey was a follow-up to a survey of campuses completed by FINE in 2015. The 2015 survey sought to identify farm to institution trends across colleges and universities in the region; the resulting 2015 FINE Campus Dining Report established a baseline for New England campus procurement of local food in 2014-15. In order to measure the progress of New England colleges, the 2018 survey asked many of the same questions as the first survey. It also asks additional questions about tracking local foods, regional food definitions, training and technical assistance needs, and the relationship between dining services and campus food pantry programs.

About the Survey

The survey was sent out to the 200 New England colleges with dining services in mid-2018. Of the 200 colleges, 110 responded to the survey (a 55 percent response rate). A total of 81 colleges that responded to the 2018 survey also responded to the 2015 survey. The participating colleges accounted for 70 percent (or 534,130 undergraduates) of the undergraduate enrollment among the 200 colleges.

Farm to Campus Survey Responses and Represented Undergraduate Enrollment by State, 2017-18

Key Findings

The full report will be released soon, but we are eager to share a few of the highlights with you here.

Local Food Purchases

Ninety three percent of responding colleges reported that they purchased local food for their dining services program. On average, those colleges reported spending 21.5 percent of their annual food budget on local food. Overall, responding colleges reported spending $67.7 million on local food in the last fiscal year and serving 87.2 million meals.

While the percent of budget spent on local food did not increase significantly between 2015 and 2018 for those campuses that took part in both surveys (21 percent and $56.8 million respectively, in 2015), survey results suggest that colleges may be using more meaningful tracking systems. To track local food, 35 percent of colleges use either distributor reports and/or in-house customized spreadsheets/tools, and 27 percent use a tracking tool provided by their food service management company. About a fifth (21 percent) do not use a tracking tool to track their local purchases; down from the last time the survey was done, when 35 percent of respondents reported not using a tool to track local purchases.

Photo courtesy of UConn

Campus Farms & Food Pantries

Forty-five percent of the participating colleges reported that their campus had an onsite garden or farm. Of these, 63 percent utilized at least some amount of product from the garden or farm in their dining services. About one-third of responding colleges reported they had a campus food pantry. In half of these (17% of all responding colleges), dining services provided food for the pantry.

Technical Assistance & Looking Ahead

Eager to understand how FINE and our partners can provide targeted assistance to New England colleges, we asked about the usefulness of a number of technical assistance areas. Respondents reported that the most useful support would be around increased distribution and processing of local foods, followed by access to larger/cooperative farms, access to marketing materials to promote local food on campus, and matchmaking between farmers/fishers, distributors, processors, and institutions.

Respondents were asked to report on how they thought their procurement of local foods would change over the next three years. Only one respondent believed it would decrease; 57 percent of respondents believe that it would increase up to 10 percent and 21 percent believed it would increase more than 10 percent.

The survey also asked respondents to tell us about specific goals they had in place around local procurement. Fifty-two percent of respondents reported that they did have a goal in place, although the specific goals varied. Most reported a goal related to a percentage of their total budget, with many listing 2020 as the year by which they have chosen to accomplish it. A full list of goals reported are included in the report. 

Photo courtesy of Harvard University

Next Steps & Acknowledgments

We will be releasing the full report at the 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit. It will include additional information on local food procurement, trends in campus dining, and recommendations for dining service operators, distributors, farmers/producers and other stakeholders in New England's farm to campus network. The results of this survey are already contributing to several conversations that FINE is having about long term goals for the institutional sector, tracking local and regional procurement, and our campus programmatic work.

FINE’s metrics project and the 2018 New England Campus Dining Survey are funded by The John Merck Fund and the Henry P. Kendall Foundation. Survey development was supported by a number of advisors including Andy Cox (Smith College), Holly Fowler (Northbound Ventures), Simca Horwitz (Mass Farm to School), and Michael Leviton (Region Foodworks). Lydia Oberholtzer serves as our research consultant.

We are appreciative to all of the respondents who took time to fill out the survey and want to congratulate our five lottery winners who each received $50 gift cards for completing the survey:

Jon Small, Central Connecticut State University
Stephan Bongiovanni, Sacred Heart University
Nolan Reese, Worcester State University
Jeffrey Kwolek, Southern Connecticut State University
Jon Barzensky, Champlain College

Stay tuned for the release of the 2018 FINE Campus Dining Report!

To receive related news, please sign up for The FINE Print. If you work in dining services, consider joining the New England Farm & Sea to Campus Dining Operators listserv.