Beyond the Cafeteria: New Outlets for Local Food on Campus

Danielle Walczak, Farm & Sea to Campus Communications Intern

Three Models for Campus Local Food Subscription Programs

Dining halls don’t have to be the only location for incorporating local food on college campuses. Many colleges and universities now also offer subscription programs or other alternative models to provide local foods to their students, staff, and faculty. Three new FINE case studies provide an overview of three of these programs and offer great models for others to consider: Brown Market Shares Program, Hampshire College CSA, and Intervale Food Hub.  

Local food subscriptions can take a variety of forms and are often captured under the phrase “Community Supported Agriculture” or “CSA”. In the CSA model, participants (often called “shareholders”) traditionally pay for a season of locally produced products before the growing season begins. Shareholders pick up their items on a regular schedule during the season. In this model, they demonstrate their commitment to the producers and a willingness to share in the risks and benefits of the growing season. They typically receive a “share” of whatever the farm has harvested that week and are not guaranteed a particular set of crops.

All of the higher education models we are sharing here ask consumers pay in advance for a share of crops from one or many farms for the season. Shares are available at scheduled pickup times and locations on a weekly, and sometimes monthly basis.

Learn more about each of these programs in the following case studies:

Hampshire College CSA | Amherst, MA


Brown Market Shares Program | Providence, RI


Intervale Food Hub | Burlington, VT


6 Tips for Running a Great Local Food Subscription Program on Campus:

  1. Tailor the share distribution schedule to the academic year. By creating a distribution schedule that mirrors academic semesters, students, staff, and faculty are more willing to participate.
  2. Organize student volunteers and have dedicated staff. Student volunteers are essential for garnering program interest and supporting program operations. Student volunteers are not difficult to find, though some programs create internships and/or paid positions. Paid staff (students or non-students) are also required to sustain programs.
  3. Find creative solutions to address healthy food access issues for the broader community (Brown Market Shares Program). By creating subsidized shares, Brown Market Shares Program was able to create access to local, healthy food for additional campus and community members. By working with many farms they were also able to make the price of their normal shares lower than an average Rhode Island CSA share, creating greater access.
  4. Dedicate staff to educational programming related to on-campus CSA farms (Hampshire College CSA). Asking your campus or institution to support a staff position that can be dedicated to organizing and offering educational programming can really improve your program and increase awareness about local foods. Paying for these staff is difficult to do based on farm revenue, so finding other sources of funding is important. If you are able to create this kind of position, it can benefit student learning opportunities and interaction between the community and campus, while providing more staff capacity to support your overall program.
  5. Work with staff or students already interested in sustainability and local foods to introduce local food subscription programs on campus (Intervale Food Hub). Working with multiple campuses is possible when using a local food distributor like Intervale Food Hub. Subscription programs are more likely to be successful when working with the sustainability office or food-related staff and/or student groups on campus to help gain access, navigate campus systems, and to help you market your service or products to institutional customers.  
  6. Consider the appropriate scale for your program and your goals for impacting area farms. Some subscription programs work with many farms (Intervale Food Hub and Brown Market Shares Program) while others work with one campus-based farm (Hampshire College CSA) or one community farm. Working with many farms can increase the diversity of products available to your customers, distribute the benefits to several farms, and can offer some risk management in case one farm has some variability in production that year. Working with one farm, such as a campus-based farm, can create increased campus ownership and connection to that farm and significantly contribute to that farm’s viability.

Do you know an institution that’s doing great work with local food subscriptions? If so, contact us at

FINE’s Farm & Sea to Campus Project aims to increase the amount of local food served in colleges and universities. Get connected with the New England Farm and Sea to Campus Network!


Learn more about these colleges and their subscription farm share programs, connect with them on social media!


Intervale Food Hub
Brown Market Shares
Brown University
Hampshire College


Intervale Food Hub: @IntervaleFH
Brown Market Shares: @market_shares
Brown University: @BrownUniversity
Hampshire College: @hampshirecolg


Sample Email

Subject: Beyond the Cafeteria: New Outlets for Local Foods on Campus
Subheader: FINE’s Latest Case Study Series
Body: We hope you can help us spread the word about FINE’s latest series of case studies about three programs in New England that offer subscription-based local foods programs to institutions. Brown students run Brown Market Shares, which offers local food shares to grad students and employees of the University; Hampshire College offers a CSA from its campus farm to employees and students; and Intervale Food Hub includes a college local foods subscription program amongst its offerings. Help us share these great stories about spreading local foods around campus and beyond!     

Sample Facebook Post 

In addition to forwarding this email, we also put together this sample Facebook post and tweet to make it easy for you to announce this new series of Local Food Subscription case studies:

Did you know that several campuses in New England are offering subscription-based #localfood programs to their students, staff, and employees? You can learn more about three of these programs via Farm to Institution New England's most recent series of case studies featuring Brown Market Shares, Hampshire College CSA, and Intervale Food Hub. Help spread the word and celebrate these institutions and businesses!  

Sample Tweet

New case study series on #campus #localfood subscription programs: @market_shares @IntervaleFH @hampshirecolg #CSA