By Abigail Kelly, For The Miami Student

The university’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability (IES) is partnering with the city of Hamilton and the nonprofit organization Hamilton Urban Gardening Systems (HUGS) to help the university to become more involved in the evolving movement of local food.

Since the establishment of Hamilton’s Historic Farmer’s Market in 1837, the city has further developed its interest in locally grown and produced food. Now, nearly 200 years later, the IES is helping Hamilton create a farm-to-table infrastructure for restaurants.

“The goal of the HUGS project is to facilitate connections between local food producers and Hamilton restaurants,” said Tom Crist, director of IES.   

To Alfred Hall, the executive director of HUGS, Miami’s partnership has helped a lot to fulfill his organization’s mission of giving community members access to fresh produce in an environmentally sustainable way.

“Miami has been very supportive not only financially but also have been very supportive of us and give us students,” Hall said.

Seniors at the Hamilton regional campus in the College of Professional Studies and Applied Sciences have completed their capstones by helping HUGS build a garden on the Hamilton campus, set up a mobile farmer’s market and work in local greenhouses.

Nursing Senior Catherine Snader worked with HUGS for her class’s community practicum by helping build a garden at the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Hamilton, an area where there is a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables for the community.

“Knowing nothing about how to create a community garden, we performed extensive research about the local area,” Snader said. “Alfred Hall, with HUGS … has been monumental [in] helping us get this project off the ground.”

Crist said the partnership the university has created with HUGS and local farmers is doing good both for Miami and the community.

For example, the Oxford campus dining services already receive 30 percent of their food from local sources.

“Locally sourced food is desirable because it supports the local economy, often involves less use of fertilizer and pesticides than larger industrial operations and reduces energy usage associated with long distance transportation of food,” Crist said. “These help support our university mission and sustainability goals, as well, by supporting the local economy and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Some of the foods that come locally to Miami Dining Services include the beef used at Encounter, the ice cream and gelato at Miami Ice and Marzetti Salad Dressings used across campus.

Director of Procurement and Food Purchasing  Jon Brubacher said it is a combination of dining services pursuing local businesses and local farmers reaching out back.

“If we can find a local product that is safe and wholesome food and is the quality that our customers want, then we do try  — whenever possible — we try to support the local business and local farmers,” Brubacher said.

The IES is also involved in the formation of the new Food Studies Institute at Miami’s Oxford campus, expected to start in the next few years with the help of the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Innovation Fund. The institute will create university gardens to raise produce for Dining Services.

Hall said he already sees the positive impact Miami’s cooperation has had in the community.

“Miami gives us extremely knowledgeable students who are very interested in improving the environment and being healthier,” Hall said. “I know I can always count on the university to help local citizens.”

But, most importantly, he said he sees the university’s impact as vital to what will become of the local food movement happening in and around Hamilton.

“I have a very basic idea that you have to involve citizens, local government and institutions, with a common vision is the only way to be able to affect and sustain change.”