Johns Hopkins pledges commitment to local, sustainable food sources

Daniels signs Real Food Challenge at student-organized 100 Mile Meal

Image caption: President Ronald J. Daniels signed the Real Food Challenge on Friday evening at the 100 Mile Meal, a campus event featuring an all-local meal planned and prepared by students. The event was organized by Real Food Hopkins, a student group led by seniors Raychel Santo (left) and Emily Nink (right).

Credit: James VanRensselaer/Homewood Photography

At least 35 percent of Johns Hopkins University food purchases will be local, sustainable, humane and fair-trade by 2020, Johns Hopkins University has pledged. With this commitment, Johns Hopkins not only becomes one of the largest universities in the country to accept the Real Food Challenge, it exceeds the challenge's recommended goal of 20 percent.

"This is a significant investment, not just in the health of our students, faculty and staff, but in the wellbeing of our city and region," President Ronald J. Daniels said. "It demonstrates our commitment, as the city's largest private employer, to sustaining the community we call home."

Daniels signed the pledge Friday evening at the 100 Mile Meal, a campus event featuring an all-local meal planned and prepared by students. This year's menu included maple-marinated kale salad with One Straw Farm's kale, white chicken chili with Albright Farm's chicken, and apple crumble with Black Rock Orchard's fruit.

Johns Hopkins has already started stocking its dining halls with more local products:

  • Eighty percent of the meat on campus, including grass-fed beef, is locally purchased.
  • All bread and rolls come from Baltimore's Stone Mill Bakery.
  • All milk comes from two Pennsylvania dairies.
  • All salad greens are organic and most come from Big City Farms, based in Baltimore.
  • Canola oil comes from Susquehanna Mills Co., a Pennsylvania outfit that makes oil from local seeds and then collects used oil to convert to biodiesel fuel. The company then sells the fuel to the farmers who grow the canola seeds.
  • Baltimore chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen is supplying the campus with his hot sauce and pickled vegetables.

A student organization, Real Food Hopkins, campaigned for the dining changes. Led by senior Raychel Santo, who is double majoring in public health and global environmental change and sustainability, and senior Emily Nink, who is double majoring in global environmental change and sustainability and Spanish, the group has worked to make students aware of what they eat and where it comes from. The group has also started a community garden on Johns Hopkins' Eastern campus and petitioned the university administration to purchase more local food.

"It's exciting to see tangible change," Santo said. "When we leave Johns Hopkins we'll know we made a difference."

Real Food Hopkins is a chapter of the national Real Food organization, which aims to get universities nationwide to shift from institutional food purchases to local and humane ones. The organization's goal is to convert $1 billion in such food buys by 2020.

Johns Hopkins is the 18th college to take the pledge. Other schools that have done it include the University of California, Santa Cruz; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Vermont, and Oberlin College.