Food Systems


With nearly 20,000 graduate and undergraduate students and over 8,000 faculty and staff we have put a significant importance on our sustainable purchasing efforts in order to assist all members of the Northwestern University family in reducing its carbon footprint. All of our milk comes from Muller Pinehurst Dairy of Rockford, IL. Some of our sustainable purchasing includes:

  • Our regional producer provider, Midwest Foods, is committed to sourcing produce whenever available from local farms such as:
    • Borzynski Farms - WI (see our blog for photos of our visit!)
    • Garwood Orchards - IN (see our blog for photos of our visit!)
    • Fitzgerald Family Farms - WI
    • Windy City Harvest - IL
    • Miedema Produce - MI
    • Parrfection Produce - WI
    • Scheeringa Farms - IL
    • Duda Farms - MI
  • We purchase from the following businesses to support the local economy:
  • Frontera Fresca, our new premier eatery, is committed to exclusively using local food and produce from farmers within a 100-mile radius of the restaurant. Local sources include:
    • Miller Poultry (Indiana: all natural antibiotic free chicken)
    • Berkridge (Iowa: all natural premium Berkshire Pork)
    • Nueske's (Wisconsin: Applewood Smoked Bacon)
    • Meyer Natural (Colorado: naturally aged Black Angus Beef)
    • El Milagro (Illinois: Stone Ground Corn Tortillas and Natural Flour Tortillas)
    • V&V Suprimo (Illinois: Chihuahua Cheese, Queso Fresco, and aged Cotija Cheese)
    • ATK Foods (Illinois: all natural Pork Chorizo)
    • Labriola Baking (Illinois: fresh baked Breads)
    • Rishi Tea (Wisconsin: Iced Tea)
    • Seedling Organic Orchard (Michigan: various Fruits)
    • Milk + Honey (Illinois: Frontera Granola)
    • Klug Farms (Michigan: seasonal Fruits)
    • Organic Valley (Wisconsin: dairy) 

Sustainable Food Purchasing Criteria

  • Marine Stewardship Council Certified Seafood: Over the course of the last century, many of the world's fisheries have become nearly depleted due to harvesting at a rate faster than fish populations can reproduce. The Marine Stewardship Council program works with seafood suppliers, restaurants and retailers to set standards that makes global seafood markets more sustainable. 
  • Organic Food: USDA certified organic foods are foods that are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and dies and processed without solvents, irradiation, or genetic modification. Organic farming keeps pesticides and fertilizers from entering nearby water systems, thereby protecting human and environmental health.
  • Local Foods: Local foods are foods that are grown and produced within a 250 mile range of where they are consumed and thus support the local economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation of food. For Northwestern, local foods come from farms and production centers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. 
  • Humane Certified: Humane certified foods are foods that protect animal rights through the just treatment of animals. Specifically, Northwestern Dining sources all eggs from cage-free farms, where hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, vital natural behaviors denied to hens confined in cages. 
  • Fair Trade: Fair Trade Certification is a certification by FairTrade USA, a non-profit organization. Fair Trade Certified foods are held to standards that aim to ensure equitable international trade and fair partnerships between producers and buyers while reducing the vulnerability of small farms and improving the producers' quality of life.

Northwestern University signed on to the RFC Campus Commitment in June 2015, pledging to source at least 20% Real Food by 2020. Real Food is defined as food, which is local/community-based, ecologically sound, humane, and/or is built on fair-labor practices. This is determined by the Real Food Calculator, which uses third-party certifications and other standardized measures to classify each item of food in the dining halls and compute the school's Real Food percentage.

Northwestern Dining is working to change our sourcing to include Real Food in our menus. This campaign and the current implementation is the results of the work done by the student group known as NURF, Northwestern's chapter of a the nation-wide campaign called The Real Food Challenge (RFC) that advocates for more Real Food in campus dining halls. With campaign tools and frameworks developed by RFC, more than 30 universities in the US have already pledged to source more Real Food in their dining halls, and Northwestern is the leader of the Big 10 as the first school to sign on to the commitment.

The implementation of this commitment is performed by the Food Systems Working Group (FSWG), a group composed of all stakeholders in Northwestern's food system: students, administrators, faculty, Northwestern Dining, Vendors, and Farmers. These members of the FSWG are divided into three subcommittees: Sourcing/Calculator, Marketing, and Policy. The ultimate goal of the FSWG is to carry out the Campus Commitment by changing the sourcing of our food, and educating and engaging the community about the changes and principles related to Real Food.

Check out NURF's website to learn more. To become involved with Real Food at NU and/or the FSWG, contact the group at