Local Harvest Initiative


The Local Harvest Initiative is a partnership of UNH Dining, the Sustainability Institute, and local producers. Through the Local Harvest Initiative, UNH Dining is committed to serving locally, regionally, and sustainably grown, produced, and manufactured items to the greatest extent possible (Approximately 22% of Dining's budget is spent on local food). Many of these items are included regularly in the dining halls and campus retail outlets, and others are purchased for special events such as the annual Local Harvest Feast. This effort is part of the university’s broader Food & Society Initiative, which commits UNH to being a sustainable food community that promotes healthy food systems.

Serving sustainable food helps support our local economy, a vibrant regional agricultural infrastructure, and a healthy food system. UNH Dining looks for farms and food producers or manufacturers located within a 250 mile radius from UNH. Additional criteria that UNH Dining considers in its purchasing decisions include:

Annual Local Harvest Feast

This ever-popular annual feast - which won the Bronze Medal in the 2007 Loyal E. Horton Award Competition for a Large School Theme Dinner from the National Association of College & University Food Services - features local foods and gourmet dining at the UNH Durham campus dining halls. In addition, displays by featured farmers, businesses, and organizations are set up each year for guests to peruse and learn more about our local food system. Held each September, the Local Harvest Feast attracts thousands of diners every year: The Local Harvest Feast attracted approximately 1,600 diners in its first year (2005); 1,900 diners in 2006; 3,700 in 2007; 7,000 in 2008; and 7,700 in 2009. The event features a local breakfast at Stillings Dining Hall, a local lunch at Philbrook Dining Hall, and local dinner at Holloway Commons. To read the press release and view the menu, click here

Menus of Change InfographicMenus of Change

This initiatives leverages the unique position of universities to advance healthier, more sustainable life-long food choices among students-who will soon be parents and adult decision-makers by connecting a diversity of insights from academic programs and dining services.  In 2012, The Culinary Institute if America (CIA) and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)-Department of Nutrition launched Menus of Change. By embracing the 24 principles and implementing them over time centered around Menu Concepts and General Operations and Food and Ingredients UNH's goal is to migrate guest’s appetite towards healthy, sustainable choices. UNH Dining is one of 37 university dining programs to join the Menus of Change initiative and is an active member on a number of work groups driving this initiative nationwide.

Local Seafood Initiative

In 2014, UNH Dining (in collaboration with the Sustainability Institute, UNH Cooperative Extension, and UNH Slow Food) started the Local Seafood Initiative and was the first university to sign the Slow Fish Principles. Dining now sources a portion of its fish offerings from New England fisherman and organizes a local seafood dinner in the spring that is open to the UNH community and general public. Click here to see photos from the 2015 Dinner.

Sustainable Dining Operations

UNH Compost Program

The UNH Compost Program is program run by UNH Dining and the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. Since the program was began in 1998, over half a million pounds of food waste have been diverted from the waste stream and composted. Approximately 25,000-40,000 pounds of pre- and post-consumer food waste are diverted from the UNH dining halls per month through the composting program. All UNH dining halls have installed food pulpers to pulverize food waste into small bits and extract liquid, a process that helps to facilitate the composting process. Since summer 2006, University Hospitality staff has been managing the food waste collection and drop off at UNH’s Kingman Farm, home of the compost windrows.

Recycling and waste reduction

  • Dining Services has a comprehensive recycling program including glass, plastic, cardboard, cans, and paper.
  • Dining reuses or recycles used equipment during renovations whenever possible.
  • Dining serves about 80% of its food in its three dining halls, at which they use china and flatware.
  • The Marketplace at Stillings Dining Hall and Elements at Philbrook Dining Hall are "trayless", helping to decrease food waste.
  • Many of the disposable products used by dining are eco-friendly, including eco-friendly “clamshells,” paper cups, compostable to-go containers, and more.
  • Dining engages in waste reduction education in the dining halls, including displays and information tables encouraging students to minimize food waste. Most recently partnering with the Sustainability Institute and Student Senate on Take Less, Waste Less.
  • Dining services offers beverage discounts for using reusable mugs.
  • Proulx Oil & Propane and (Restaurant Technologies, Inc.), collect waste vegetable oil from Stillings, Philbrook and Holloway Commons Dining Halls. Both companies process the waste vegetable oil into biodiesel.

Energy use and equipment

UNH Dining has partnered with Purchasing and the Energy Office to identify and purchase ENERGY STAR and other efficient equipment. To date, implemented measures include low-flow faucets and more efficient lighting. Buildings are also automated for energy use. Air-cooled refrigeration is used almost exclusively, as opposed to water-cooled which reduces water usage. To support the Green Certified Cleaning Program, Dining utilizes non-caustic washing chemicals and other environmentally friendly cleaning products provided by EcoLogic. During the summer of 2007, UNH Dining installed a new dishwasher in Philbrook Dining Hall that will reduce water usage by 60% or more. UNH Dining has replaced traditional urinals with waterless urinals that will eventually save an estimated 765,000 gallons of water per year and $20,000 in annual water and sewer costs. Because the new urinals eliminate flush valves, maintenance costs are also reduced.  All three dining halls and the Dairy Bar are now certified green restaurants.

In the summer of 2008, Dining opened a revamped UNH Dairy Bar featuring local foods, nutritious and delicious menu, and sustainable operations. From local foods to energy efficient appliances to compostable to-go containers, the Dairy Bar features sustainability at its most delicious.

Learn More

The Local Harvest Inititative is only one piece of UNH's leadership in food system sustainability. Learn about other key initiatives below:

  • Food Solutions New England: A regional, collaborative network dedicated around a single goal: to transition the New England food system into a resilient driver of healthy food, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities.
  • New England Food Vision: A collaborative report that considers the future of our region: a future in which food nourishes a social, economic and environmental landscape that supports a high quality of life for everyone, including generations to come.
  • NH Food Alliance: A network of individuals working together to build a food system that is good for people, businesses, and the environment.
  • NH Farm to School: Helps healthy, local food reach New Hampshire students’ cafeterias by working with schools and farmers. 
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Offers a flexible curriculum to students seeking to acquire integrated knowledge and experiences related to modern agricultural and food systems.
  • Dual Major in EcoGastronomy: A complement to any primary major, the Dual Major in EcoGastronomy integrates sustainable agriculture, hospitality management, and health and nutrition.