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Loyola University Chicago

Institute of Environmental Sustainability

Food Systems

What is local? What is seasonal? The food served on campus—where is it sourced from?  Is it produced in ways that do not harm people, the soils, or water? How are our eating behaviors impacting society in ways that impede a just society and do we contribute to environmental degradation?

These questions prompted students, faculty, and staff to make a commitment to investigate industrial agriculture and understand its impacts on a local, national and global scale. When an issue is explored, discussed and researched, the Loyola community responds in ways that seek to create solutions.

Loyola's Actions to Support Ethical and Sustainable Food Systems

The University's role in the food system includes food-related education, production, purchasing and dining services,  community outreach and service, and research. See below for specific examples:

Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP): Food Systems

Students can take the STEP Food Systems course to engage in multidisciplinary study and student-led projects related to the many activities involved in food production and consumption. For more information see STEP: Food Systems.

Sustainable Agriculture

Offered during the summer, the Sustainable Agriculture class explores the theory and practice of modern sustainable agriculture through the expansion and management of the sustainable farm at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus.  The course includes business planning and advancing the farm through all aspects of sustainable farm operations. A few highlighted topics covered in the course include:

  • Biodynamic farming concepts and methods
  • Chicken husbandry
  • Compost systems
  • Irrigation systems
  • Season extension techniques

Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens Project

The Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens Project provides interactive, real-world educational tools for the entire Loyola community. For more information, see the Urban Agriculture Demonstration Garden Project.

Farmers Markets

There are two Loyola Farmers Markets weekly, which provide local produce and goods to neighbors, increasing food access and supporting a local food economy.

Student Farm

The Loyola Student Farm was started by five student interns in May 2011 at the Loyola Retreat and Ecology Campus (LUREC).  The farm offered students a unique opportunity to study sustainable agriculture in the classroom and go directly outdoors to put the theory into practice.  The skill set required to run an environmentally sustainable farm is diverse as it gives students experience in agriculture, biology, ecology, soil science, marketing and advertising. For more information, see the Loyola Student Farm.

Edible Landscaping

Colorful Swiss chard and kale arranged with trailing thyme and oregano herb plants make for a vibrant alternative to traditional landscapes planted. Ornamental landscapes are pleasing to the senses yet there can be more to a pleasing landscape—harvesting for a fresh, healthy meal.

Edible landscapes combine fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers into a design that is aesthetically beautiful. Loyola students understand the value of a landscape with edible flora and in 2010 created the foundation of a campus plan to include edible plants on campus. Putting together a plan involved students from the STEP: Food Systems course collaborating with the Growers' Guild and the Facilities Management team. Today edible landscaping on campus includes native vegetation and an established campus orchard nursery for the saplings.

Students mapped the edible lanscape of the Lake Shore Campus to educate the Loyola community about the possibility of growing food anywhere and everywhere. As part of the STEP: Food Systems course project, the aim was to bring the concept of food closer to home, localizing and personalizing food for an urban population.

 For more information, see Edible Landscaping.

Green Threads: Aramark

Green Threads is the overall summary of Aramark's commitment to environmental sustainability.  Partnering with Loyola, Aramark strives to reduce the University's carbon footprint through dining options and operations.

  • Trayfree dining in the two buffet-style dining halls: Plate waste is reduced by 25%-30% per person and saves more than 500 gallons of water annually by not having to wash trays
  • Sustainable Seafood Procurement Policy
  • Locally sourced fruit, vegetables and baked goods
  • Fair Trade products used in dining and sold in cafes
  • Donates the waste vegetable oil to Loyola's Biodiesel Production Program
  • Holds a "Meatless Monday" menu in the dining halls
  • Vegetarian and vegan eating options

To learn more about Aramark's Green Thread at Loyola, check out Sustainability with Loyola Dining.

Dining Advisory Committee

Anyone in the Loyola community can become involved in discussions of food purchasing policies and sustainable practices. Consisting of staff and students, the committee meets regularly to discuss trends in cuisine, assess food purchasing policies and make changes as needed to adhere to socially sound and environmentally friendly practices.

Green Cafe at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability

Opening in the Fall of 2013, the Institute for Environmental Sustainability will include an organic cafe based on sustainable dining principles.

  • A 3,100 sq. ft. greenhouse used for teaching, research and production of organic food
  • An aquaponics facility where fish and crops are grown together synergistically
  • Student-led Green Café featuring local and organic food, a zero waste strategy and energy efficient equipment

Hunger Week

Hunger Week is a long-standing, campus-wide tradition at Loyola. Each November, a dedicated team of students coordinate educational events that engage their peers, staff and faculty to stand in solidarity with those who hunger in our local community and across the globe.

Fundraising is a big part of Hunger Week. The students identify three organizations that contribute to alleviating hunger and help raise funds to support the organizations to fulfill their missions. STEP has been identified as a local beneficiary. The Solutions to Environmental Problems: Food Systems course has been identified as a local beneficiary. 

  • Money raised during Hunger Week provide funds to purchase seeds for the Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens Project.
  • The seeds planted generate vegetables which are then harvested and donated to a local food pantry and kitchen that serve those in need, A Just Harvest. Weekly trips, sometimes twice a week, bring freshly harvested, highly nutritous vegetables to A Just Harvest from the campus gardens.

Annual Sustainable Dinner

As part of Hunger Week, an annual Sustainable Dinner is sponsored by Loyola's Gannon Center for Women & Leadership. To honor the land and be mindful that it provides for us, the Gannon Undergraduate Scholars plan a meal reflective of the fall Midwest growing season. The dinner is held in November which requires careful planning to ensure the food served is sourced locally. Squash soup, green salad mix, sauteed kale with cheese, apple cider and pies plus Growers' Guild Loyol Tea are examples of the seasonal meal served at this amazing dinner.

During the dinner, guest speakers share their relationships with the seasons, the environment, responsibility to growing food in ethical ways to ensure the needs are met for all.


Institute of Environmental Sustainability
Loyola University Chicago · 1032 W. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60660 · Phone: 773-508-2130 · IES@luc.edu

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