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The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 48.07
Liaison Kathy Johnson
Submission Date April 21, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Black Hills State University
IN-24: Innovation A

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Katie Greer
Sustainability Coordinator
Facilities Services
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Black Hills Food Hub

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Black Hills State University (BHSU) and Spearfish community partners are seeking to create a culture that supports and values local food in order to expand the reach and depth of our regional local food economy. This project is unique in that it covers the three pillars of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental and benefits a large number of citizens from a wide demographic. Additionally, large-quantity commitments from buyers lend unprecedented support to the local food economy.

Black Hills Food Hub, a business incubated at BHSU and run by Cobblestone Science (a locally- and women-owned small business), coordinates the needs of cafeterias in the region with local food producers by serving as one point of contact for cafeteria managers to access produce from multiple local farms.

The planning process involved BHSU sustainability staff and student interns talking with local producers, the BHSU campus cafeteria, and local cafeteria managers from the hospital, schools, and retirement homes. The consolidated information showed a clear pattern of a distribution gap between producers and cafeterias due to several concrete barriers. Through a locally conducted survey in 2015, it was discovered that only one Spearfish cafeteria purchases local food and it did so only once per year. It became clear that getting food into cafeterias would benefit the greatest number of people and provide a substantial economic boost to local producers, growing our agricultural community.

The loud voice from area farmers is that the region needs more producers. The farmers we spoke with know that they are stronger in numbers. We took this into account in the food hub concept. One farmer may not have enough consistent produce for a large-scale cafeteria's weekly needs. However, collectively it can be done. As new producers come to the area, more markets will be opened and the Food Hub can access more cafeterias.

Cafeteria managers taught us the fast-paced, low-margin structure of their work. With a passion for the culinary arts, most cafeteria chefs would love to use high quality and local ingredients. However, the price, time, and coordination required to work with many local farmers makes this unrealistic. The food hub tackles these issues by creating a system as close to a large food distribution company as possible with one contact ordering and delivering.

BHSU applied for a Local Food Promotion Program grant through the US Department of Agriculture. The grant funded the creation and management of the Black Hills Food Hub, one of two in the state of South Dakota launched in 2015.

A food hub takes the produce from many farms, adds it all together, and then sells it to customers. This allows some farmers to specialize in a few crops that they prefer to grow (such as heritage tomatoes) and/or to have a venue for sales that they otherwise would not have. Additionally, the food hub eliminates the barriers of purchasing local food on the cafeteria management side reducing the time and organization needed for both the ordering process and delivery.

The overarching goal of the project is to increase local food production and the number of producers in the area by increasing access to local food for people of diverse economic and health status.

BHSU wrote and received the grant to implement the project. Work began in October 2015 when Cobblestone Science started by speaking to producers about what they would be growing and what they would like to contribute to the food hub. Some producers will offer a lot of produce and some will offer less, but it is a lot of food when all added together.

The Black Hills Food Hub has agreements with two large area cafeterias: Regional Health Hospital and Carver's Cafe at Xanterra Parks & Resorts at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. The two combined cafeterias serve over 6,000 meals per day. The amount of food both cafeterias are willing to purchase will create a demand that will allow full participation from all willing area producers.

The Black Hills Food Hub successfully made its first weekly delivery on May 25, 2016. Although it was very early in the growing season for South Dakota, asparagus, arugula, and radishes were harvested and sold to Regional Health Hospital.

Before contracts with the Black Hills Food Hub, Regional Health did not purchase any local food for its cafeterias. Carver’s Cafe previously purchased from one Black Hills area producer. Thirteen local producers provide food to the food hub currently. This project created a new market for cafeteria sales for area producers. The project's first year economic impact was over $7000 and 1900 lbs of produce.


Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Public Engagement
Food & Dining

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the innovation is available :
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.