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Food Systems

The Good Food Garden, a student-run space that grows fruits and vegetables in spring, summer, and fall. 

Swarthmore is committed to a healthy, equitable food system that enhances the well-being of our community and supports our sustainability goals. Read on to learn about how dining services, student groups, campus projects, and community groups work to create a thriving, sustainable food system.

Food Systems Working Group 

The recently launched Food Systems Working Group (FSWG) works to improve Swarthmore's food system by focusing on food-growing on Swarthmore's campus, as well as food ordered, eaten, and catered with a focus on sustainability, nutrition, environmental justice, and responsible purchasing practices. FSWG will make recommendations to the Ecosphere, reporting to the Executive Committee and President's staff to inform short, medium, and long-term vision and goals for the development of curricular and co-curricular educational opportunities related to sustainable and just food systems work at Swarthmore College.

Sustainable Dining Services

Dining Services strives to uphold the College's commitment to sustainability by sourcing locally produced foods, reducing waste and conserving resources. You can learn more about sustainability in dining services by visiting their website. Sustainability highlights from Dining Services include: 

Commitment to compost: The College works with Kitchen Harvest, a local, family-owned business, to compost kitchen and post-consumer waste collected throughout campus. The compost is sorted by Green Advisors on campus, transported and processed by Kitchen Harvest, and eventually used at a family farm located in Middletown, PA. In 2018, Kitchen Harvest collected almost 310,00 pounds of compostable waste. On an annual basis, that works out to about 110 pounds of compostable waste per student, faculty, and staff. For more information about our waste on campus, click here. 

100% compostable or reusable food packaging : Our secondary dining facilities, including Essie Mae's Snack Bar, Kohlberg Coffee Bar, and the Science Center Coffee Bar, offer 100% compostable packaging.  Sharples Dining hall uses reusable plates, cups, and to-go packaging for food. The reusable takeout container program was developed in 2019 by Samantha Barnes '22, and is still underway. For more information about how dining services has reduced the use of non-compostable materials, click here

Local food procurement: Dining Services has a team of dedicated staff that purchases ingredients, prepares and cooks meals, and serves more than 4,500 meals per day. These staff have developed relationships with local farmers and bakers, who provide food such as cage-free egg from Sandy Ridge Farm, bread from Le Bus Bakery, and fresh apples from Beechwood Orchards. In addition to buying directly from local food producers, Dining Services is proud to work with a number of local, privately owned and operated food distributors. Each of these companies feature locally produced items, provide employment to area residents, and support their communities. For more information, click here.

Use of Campus Produce  :  during summer months produce from both the Good Food Garden and Our Food Garden is harvest and distributed to Dining Service faculties, where it is used in a variety of dishes. Produce is also given to volunteers participating in the Scott Arboretum Garden Share program. During the academic year produce is distributed to student workers in the Good Food Garden, and participants in the Our Food course.

Dining and Community Commons Project: This project includes the construction of a new dining facility and renovation of the existing Sharples as a student-focused commons. The new dining facility will open in 2022, and the renovated Sharples commons will open in 2023. The building has been designed with a goal of net-zero carbon emissions and contains infrastructure to support the “Roadmap to Zero,” our energy master plan designed to re-imagine our approach to powering, heating, and cooling campus and realize our commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. Learn more here.

Reusable Takeout Container Program 

The Office of Sustainablity and Dining Services are excited to announce the launch of a 100-participant pilot program for resuable takeout containers, based out of Sharples. The goal of the program is to improve our campus community's takeout and waste sorting experience, and reduce the total amount of waste we generate. A single reusable container can replace up to one thousand disposable containers! 

Information for participants:

1. You will have a dedicated meal plan added to your Onecard account, and be notified when it is activated.

2. The meal plan will start with balance of 2' tokens', which each represent a single reusable container that can be checked out.

3. To get a reusable container, simply make your meal reservation on GET as normal, and inform the cashier that you are part of the reusable program. You will be asked to swipe your card (and a token will be removed from your balance), and then you will be able to take a container to the food serving area. Please only use one reusable container per meal.

4. To return a reusable container (or multiple), bring it to the cashiers, place it in the collection bin, and ask to have a token refund. You will be asked to swipe your card to complete the transaction ( a token will be added to your balance). 

5. You do not have to wash your containers before returning them! Please report any lost/found containers to - DO NOT attempt to replace your lost container with another, OR  return someone else's container for them. DO NOT collect containers that may appear to be lost. 

Please feel free to reach out to with any questions or concerns!

Food Gardens

Our Food Garden 

Our Food Garden has been a vehicle for education about sustainable agriculture and our food system since 2016. Students in the associated Our Food course, which is co-hosted by the Environmental Studies program and the Biology department, use the gardens to grow annual crops of personal interest and to share their newfound knowledge with the community via garden signs and other special projects. 

In 2021 the Our Food Garden was relocated below the Faulkner Tennis Courts, and between the Women's Resource Center, Olde Club, and Kitao Gallery. Crops include a variety of perennials such as chocolate mint, rosemary and sage, as well as modern fall-bearing blackberry and raspberry varieties that students can enjoy during the academic year. Annual crops are planted based on seasonality, and a local company, TrueLove Seeds, sources many of the seeds.

Our Food Community Area 

After the Our Food course moved to its current location below the Faulkner Tennis Courts, a small section was designated within the fence, separate from the Our Food course garden space, as a community area to increase student engagement and serve the campus the community. This space currently includes three tables and six benches which can seat up to twelve students for garden events. The garden includes four small 4x4 plots, and there are plans for additional growing plots. This space is managed with coordination between the Office of Sustainability, the Scott Arboretum, and the Women's Resource Center. 

Good Food Garden

The Good Food Garden, located on the corner of Elm and Cedar, is home to variety of plants. The Good Food Garden Garden is a student run space, managed with help from Scott Arboretum, volunteers, and other community members. Throughout the academic year and in the summer season you can find annual and perennial crops, as well as flowers. Moving forward, the Student Food Garden Coordinators hope to hold events in the space for students and the campus community. 


The College offers several ways for students to engage with beekeeping, and honeybee hives can be found at several locations on campus. The Scott Arboretum, Environmental Studies Program, and Office of Sustainability work with Alvéole, a company that cares for beehives and provides specialized educational programming on bees. There is currently an Alvéole hive located on the roof of David Kemp. An additional Alvéole hive will be added behind Whittier Hall in May 2022. Additionally, there are two non-Alvéole hives located between the Benjamin West House and McCabe Library, next to the bio stream. These hives are cared for by faculty member Lara Cohen and a number of students. Together, the Scott Arboretum, Environmental Studies Program, Office of Sustainability, and other campus staff have provided educational events for students to learn about beekeeping.


Interested in taking a class about food? Some recent and future course offerings include ENVS 099 (Our Food), ENVS 008 (Plants and People), ANTH 039C (Food and Culture), ENVS 007 (Food, Land, Healing), ENGR 010 (Fundamentals of Food Engineering), and HIST 081B (Creating ourselves : Black Women's history through food and literature). For more information, check out the course catalog.

Student Groups

While many student groups host events with food, EAT and the Good Food Project focus specifically on aspects of growing, cooking, and eating healthy and delicious food. You can learn more about EAT, the Good Food Project, and other sustainability-related groups at our 'Join a Student Group' page.

Swarthmore Farmers Market

The Swarthmore Farmers Market takes place in downtown Swarthmore at Central Park (121 Park Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081) every Saturday from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM between May 11 and December 7. For more information about the Farmers Market, click here


Harvest Dinner

This yearly tradition brings the Swarthmore community together to celebrate fall with locally sourced seasonal specials, and to showcase the delicious local foods that Dining Services regularly serves.


Local Food

In addition to buying directly from a number of local farmers and food producers, Dining Services is proud to work with numerous local, privately owned and operated food distributors. Each of these companies feature locally produced items, provide employment to area residents, and support communities in our region. Dining Services is dedicated to providing as much food as possible that is locally sourced, environmentally sustainable, and produced in equitable and safe work environments.