Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type



Sociology and Anthropology


In the United States, as well as in other post-industrial countries, there is an increasingly welldocumented attention to environmental issues arising among both the general population and the media (Jackson, 2007). This is a result of several factors: mounting awareness of the many health and sanitation problems associated with chemically dependent agriculture; occurrences like the recent E. coli-infected spinach breakout (Keno, 2007); the noticeable change in climate being witnessed in both everyday life as well as during large-scale focusing events like Hurricane Katrina; the demonstrated lack of leadership in Washington on environmental issues (Nichols, 2006); and an increasing lack of faith in the FDA (Keno, 2007). Proponents within the environmental movement are increasingly advocating utilizing locally-grown, organic food as a means to combat certain aspects of those issues mentioned above. Organic is better for the environment than conventionally-grown food (Wood, et al. 343, McCullum, et al. 279), as is local food because of the reduced transportation distances, meaning fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Locally-grown food is typically more nutritious, fresher, and therefore better tasting (Biemiller, 2005). Studies of college students have shown that they eat far less than the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day; access to better-tasting produce would mean less wasted, uneaten food and better health ("Farmers Market Brings Fresh Fruit, Veggies to University of CA, Davis Campus," 2007). Local foods often avoid many of the health hazards of imported food, which often comes from countries where chemicals that have been banned in the U.S. are still in use. Beyond being better for the environment and the individual, buying locally supports the community in a number of ways I will discuss below ("Why Should We Buy Locally Grown and Produced Foods?"). Despite these benefits, Lehigh University currently offers very few local or organic food options in its dining halls. I believe there are three main reasons for this which are bound up with one another: 1) there is not a significant student demand for these options because students are not educated or excited about sustainable food or sustainability in general because 2) there is not a strong enough administrative effort to educate about and promote sustainability on campus, which in turn is caused by 3) the absence of a sustainability office or coordinator with Lehigh's administration. To find out whether this is true, I first researched the scholarly literature available on local food preferences and systems, then looked at seven colleges with local food programs in place, and finally conducted three focus groups of Lehigh students to gain an understanding of Lehigh student attitudes and sustainability awareness.