PSU Redifer Commons Local Foods Dinner – “Fantastic Outcome”


4.24.13 – PSU Local Food Dinner – Report, by Rachel Hoh


Reactions from PSU Food Services Staff

  • Susan Santos, Manager of the South Food District – Because of the lateness of the meal in the semester, many were surprised by the “fantastic outcome.” By the end of the semester, students are typically low on meal points and limited in their ability to spend extra on upscale choices. Food Services has already planned another locally sourced meal in the fall, scheduled for Tuesday, September 17.
  • Jim Richards, Assistant Director of the South Food District – “This was the best attended upscale meal of the semester,” largely because of student-initiated advertising and a social media presence. The April 24 meal served as a unique learning opportunity for food prep employees. A newly-hired sous chef led the preparation of the meal and used new techniques for preparing the food, including soaking pork shanks in lard prior to cooking. As of fall 2012, Urban Garden, the a la carte dining venue in South Food District sourced two PA Preferred selections each day. The source of the food, including the farm name and location, was displayed with these products. In the fall, Food Services plans to continue this program, and add visits from the farmers themselves.

Reactions from Local Farmers

  • Among the local farmers who attended the event, several were upset with not having their products included in the meal. For future meals, a longer planning period would allow Penn State to reach out to non-approved vendors and assist them in the application process. With an expanded list of approved vendors, Food Services would be able to expand their local offerings.
  • Many local farmers still hesitate to sell products to Penn State, deterred in part by their inability to obtain higher, farmersʼ market level pricing on their products. If they become Penn State-approved vendors (*mini-grants available from Spring Creek Homesteading*), farmers would get to bid on produce orders from the university regardless of the meal, providing an outlet for surplus goods. Jim Richards hopes that further explanation of the bidding process and “convincing farmers that PSU will take care of you” will lessen trepidation with the process.

*One of the hurdles PSU food buyers encounter is how few local farmers are approved vendors authorized to sell produce and meats to Penn State’s Residential Dining Services. There’s a nontrivial financial cost – estimated at between $400 and $1000 to add Penn State as an insured party on the farm insurance policy and $100 to get a delivery permit for the farm vehicle.

That cost is high enough to deter many small farmers who have very small profit margins and are lucky to break even some years. If you’re a farmer interested in applying to become an approved vendor and the cost is a significant reason for your hesitation, Spring Creek Homesteading is currently offering three mini-grants, up to $500 each. Contact me for more information.

Here’s the basic information needed for the application:

  • Farm name
  • Farmer contact information – address & phone number
  • How your farm business is organized (sole proprietor, corporation, partnership)
  • Whether you consider yourself a producer, distributor or some combination
  • Years in business
  • Estimated gross sales in previous year
  • What kind of products you want to bid on (food, proteins, perishables, dried staples, frozen foods)
  • Whether you’re a federally designated type of business (small business, women-owned, minority owned)
  • Potential conflicts of interest (if any farm owners also work for Penn State)
  • Copies of PA Department of Agriculture food safety inspection results, licenses, etc.
  • A delivery parking permit issued by the University (Costs about $100.)
  • For “Cold Chain Management,” larger, more distant vendors providing perishable or frozen foods currently have to have an “electronically-downloadable temperature data logger” to ensure that the products stayed at the appropriate cool temprerature during transportation; smaller local vendors are currently exempt from that requirement but will need to have that in a year or so.

Insurance Requirements:

  • Commercial General Liability with at least $1,000,000, listing the University as an “additional insured,”
  • Automobile liability coverage of at least $500,000 per accident and
  • Statutory Workers Compensation (or qualify as a self-insurer) and $500,000 per occurrence Employer’s Liability Insurance.

Contact John Mondock to start the paperwork.

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