UK Dining Experiences Significant Growth in Purchases From Kentucky Businesses, Locally Sourced Food


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 29, 2016) — The University of Kentucky will be changing definitions in 2016-2017 for what items are included in measuring progress in purchases from local food sources and Kentucky food businesses and processors.

UK created the definitions for local and Kentucky food and business purchases when partnering with Aramark in 2014. Those definitions were based on how the university defined those categories when it operated its own dining operation. The intent of the university was to create a fair benchmark for measuring local and state food purchases over time.

Reflecting recommendations from The Food Connection to improve the methodology and transparency for examining and measuring local purchases, UK Dining will not include Coke, Pepsi and ice in its calculations for the 2016-2017 year.

The Food Connection was created in 2014 with a $5 million investment from UK dining partner, Aramark, to deeply examine and make recommendations for improving the local and state food economies.

In 2015, The Food Connection published a report that detailed a new methodology to help better examine supply chains and understand purchasing impacts on local farms and Kentucky food businesses and processors.

Already, in 2015-2016 growth in local purchases out-stripped those for Coke, Pepsi and ice, a reflection of a growing commitment to local and Kentucky food and farm economies. Local purchases — excluding Coke, Pepsi and ice — increased by more than 27 percent in 2015-2016.

Specifically, local purchases excluding Coke, Pepsi and ice represented 11.6 percent of total food and beverage purchases in 2014-2015. That number rose significantly to 15.3 percent in 2015-2016. Success stories include local or regional companies such as Boone Creek Creamery, of Lexington, and Boone Butcher, of Bardstown. UK hopes to continue to add partnerships like these.

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“We believe that taking those products out of our assessment of local food purchasing impact and performance will give us a clearer and stronger sense of the impact on the local and state food economies,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the UK College of Agriculture Food and Environment (CAFE). CAFE oversees the work of The Food Connection. “Everyone — and all of our partners — want the same thing: a vibrant dining service for our campus community and one that strongly supports the development of a robust food and agribusiness economy."

"But no matter the measurement, we are making progress toward that end. With new definitions — and a continued commitment — that progress will be even more clearly defined," Cox said. 

Local purchases overall also represent a larger share of total UK dining purchases — 27.7 percent of total purchases in 2015-2016, compared to 22.2 percent in 2014-2015.

The largest areas of growth were seen in Kentucky food businesses (defined as businesses with majority Kentucky ownership), including those with a majority Kentucky farm source impact (defined as products containing at least 50 percent Kentucky farm sourced ingredients).

Including products such as Coke, Pepsi and ice — which are packaged or produced locally — total local sourcing increased 20 percent from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016, according to the analysis conducted by The Food Connection.

The Food Connection report and data breaking down UK dining purchases can be found here.

Over the next several weeks, specific language will be incorporated into the dining contract between UK and Aramark that takes Kentucky-based distributors without Kentucky farm impact — businesses such as Coke, Pepsi and ice — out of what will be counted in the measurement of local and Kentucky food business purchases.

That redefining of locally sourced food for the contract is the result of continued work by UK’s Food Connection to better define and measure the university’s dining purchases and their impact on the state and local food economies.

The Food Connection’s assessment — as well as the contract between UK and Aramark — examines Kentucky Proud as well as local food and beverage purchases. Kentucky Proud is a state defined branding program operated by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Local expenditures in the current contract are defined as any product sourced from Fayette and the six adjoining Kentucky counties.

“We continue to be gratified by the power of partnership and the commitment everyone has to local food purchasing that serves our campus community as well as our local and state economies,” said Eric N. Monday, the university’s executive vice president for finance and administration. “Because of Aramark’s investment in UK, and its commitment to Kentucky, we are understanding more deeply food supply chains and how we can continue to grow our purchases in ways that directly and positively impact local farms and food businesses.”

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, visit #uk4ky #seeblue

MEDIA CONTACT: Blair Hoover, 859-257-6398,