Food Module Content

The University of Michigan spends over $25 million per year on food and serves over 4 million meals. That is a lot of potential for sustainable and local food choices for our health, community, economy, and the environment. Add to that the influence we have as a community of 80,000 making independent food decisions every day, and we can make a true and lasting shift in our food system. 

“Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state and has lost over 100,000 acres of farmland from 2002-2007. It is important that U-M supports maintaining local agricultural land for agricultural uses.  Local produce tends to minimize transportation and processing by: traveling less distance, being handled by less people or machinery, and is sold sooner after harvest; these attributes maximize freshness, flavor and nutrient retention. Therefore there is greater chance that in supporting local produce and products we are getting the most nutrition and taste from our products.” – Campus Integrated Assessment Report

Our Progress

Apples at EarthfestOur Guiding Principle: We will pursue land and water management, built environment, and product sourcing strategies toward improving the health of ecosystems and communities.

Our Goal: Purchase 20% local or sustainable food by 2025.

  • "Local" is grown and/or processed in Michigan or within 250 miles of Ann Arbor.
  • "Sustainable" (via our campus guidelines) is at least one of the following: third-party certified, local, organic practices, humane treatment of animals, hormone and antibiotic free, free range poultry and eggs, grass fed or pasture raised meats, and/or sustainable fisheries. 

Our full "Sustainable Food Purchasing Guidelines" are available on the Office of Campus Sustainability's website. We recently tightened these guidelines, setting our standards for sustainable food even higher.

Our Progress: Currently 14.7% of our $25 million in food purchases meet the guidelines for local or sustainable food.

Sustainable Food Certifications

If you are looking to purchase sustainable foods, consider purchasing foods with the third party certifications below. These are some of the third party certifications which are accepted by the University sustainable food guidelines.

Certified Organic (USDA standards) food products offer the assurance that environmental harms have been minimized through prohibitions on many pesticides, on genetically-modified food varieties, and chemical fertilizers. 
Certified Sustainable (Food Alliance standards) goes beyond the USDA checklist approach to organic certification and offers assurance of sustainable management practices at the whole-farm level. Certified farms demonstrate attention to management practices that improve soil quality, reduce chemical use, improve crop rotations, maintain biodiversity in soil, seeds, and natural habitats on the whole farm, protect water quality, conserve energy, manage waste, provide safe and fair working conditions and worker pay, and assure the humane treatment of animals. 
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified fisheries are being harvested on a sustainable basis and include health criteria in their ratings, but do not include farmed seafood. Working with partners, the MSC program helps to bring about positive changes in the world's oceans and is transforming the seafood market to a sustainable basis. 
Rainforest Alliance Certified products help conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior. That means helping farmers, forest managers and tourism businesses realize greater economic benefits by ensuring ecosystems within and around their operations are protected, and that their workers are well-trained and enjoy safe conditions, proper sanitation, health care and housing.


On campus, you can look for the "Go Blue, Eat Local!" label used by U-Go's, the League, the Union, Pierpont Commons, and in dining halls to identify local foods. They also have labels for vegan and vegetarian options.

Go Blue Eat Local Label


Sustainable Food Locations

  • MHealthy Produce CartMFarmers’ Market – our on-campus farmers' market, sponsored by Central Student Government with support from the University Unions, provides fresh, local produce and educational demonstrations to the campus community. Fall dates and locations are available on the University Unions website.
  • Local Farms – our local suppliers include farms such as Lesser Farms & Orchard in Dexter, Michigan and Todoscuik Farm in Clinton County. New in 2017, the Campus Farm began providing food to be served to the campus community at the MDining halls and residential cafes. Check out U-Go's locations around campus for "Farm Fresh Wednesdays."

  • Produce Cart – a partnership of the Health System, Mhealthy, and Aramark to provide fresh produce to U-M Staff at the hospital's Towsley Triangle, Wolverine Tower, and the NCRC. Dates and locations are posted on the Mhealthy website.  

  • Ann Arbor Student Food Co. - a student-run food stand selling affordable, sustainable food on Fridays in Mason Hall.

Growing Food - you can find, and get involved with, food growing right on campus:

  • Cultivating Community Gardens - this is the oldest garden on campus located near the Ginsberg Center

  • Campus Farm & Permaculture Food Forest - at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The Campus Farm has weekly workdays.

  • Dental School "Help Yourself" Garden - begun by staff near the Dental School building to promote fresh, healthy food

  • Outdoor Adventures Garden - near Elbel field.


Sustainable Food Initiatives

Cultivating Community

The sustainable food movement is growing exponentially on campus.

The U-M Sustainable Foods Program (UMSFP) is an umbrella organization for student sustainable food initiatives including:

  • Ann Arbor Student Food Co.
  • Cultivating Community
  • Consortium on Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE)
  • Friends of the Campus Farm
  • Michigan Sustainable Food Initiative (MSFI)
  • Permaculture Design Team
  • Student Advocates for Nutrition
  • UMBees

"Sustainable Food Systems Initiative" involves faculty in interdisciplinary teaching and research around food. LSA is now offering a "Food Systems" minor to undergraduate students interested in this growing area.