Fruit and Vegetable Quality Perspectives from Producers and Consumers at a Local University in Western Pennsylvania

B. Borsari

Sustainable Systems Program (MS3)

Department of Parks & Recreation/Environmental Education Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, PA



Keywords: consumer, food education, fruit quality, producer, sustainability, vegetable
quality, western Pennsylvania.



Educating the campus community about the benefits of consuming locally
grown foods plays an important role in the philosophical approach to education
embraced by Slippery Rock University. In an effort to support also small-scale
producers in the region, the institution provided between June and August 2002 its
employees with the opportunity of eating locally grown foods, in one dining hall on
campus. A purposefully designed survey was administered to a sample (n=120) of
regular diners and to a second sample (n=20) of local farmers, in order to investigate
quality issues related to fresh fruit and vegetables consumption and production. The
data were recorded on a Likert-scale to learn about priorities and concerns when
fruit and vegetable  quality is considered as a reliable indication of consumer’s
satisfaction.  Ten indicators were proposed by the survey to define food quality
(seasonality, taste, freshness, salubrity, price, ethics, locally grown, organic, shelf
life,  agronomic  practices).  A  cumulative  Pearson’s  correlation  index  of  quality
attribute  scores  identified  by  the  survey (r=+0.93),  allowed  the  researcher  for

comparisons among the subjects’ perspectives on produce quality. The analysis of
the data suggests that consumers at the university are particularly concerned with
food  taste,  price,  freshness,  salubrity  and  shelf-life,  whereas  taste,  freshness,
seasonality, salubrity and foods that are locally grown appear to be the priority
quality  attributes  of  choice  by  food  producers.    An  analysis  of  the  remaining
indicators is provided and limitations of this preliminary study are addressed with
recommendations  for  further research needs.  Despite the logistic and economic
barriers that still impact the decentralization of modern food systems, there is a
compelling necessity to embrace a more sustainable approach in food production
and consumption by fulfilling market niches that are available at the local level. This
modus operandi appears to be geared optimally also to insure food quality.


Under the impetus of a growing interest in food quality issues, especially when
related to school meals in the U.S., the state of Pennsylvania has been demonstrating its
attention and support to such initiatives with the intent of improving also the livelihood of
local farmers (Harmon et al., 2002). Consequently, seeking the establishment of stronger
links with farmers while educating the campus community on food quality issues has
become an emphasis approach in dining hall management at Slippery Rock University.
This ambitious goal has been achieved also through a renovated food purchasing policy
that has facilitated consumption of locally grown fruit and vegetables.   Despite the crisis
of modern farming, agriculture remains a primary economic activity for the state of
Pennsylvania (B.  Snyder,  pers.  commun., 2002).  Therefore,  in  accordance  with  its

educational  mission,  and  in  support  of  a  local  food  system  and  a  philosophy  of
sustainability, SRU food services decided to purchase a 10% of locally grown food (fruit
and vegetables) from area farmers, for one of its dining halls, during the growing season
(summer) 2002. The purpose of the study was to evaluate fruit and vegetable quality


Proc. Int. Conf. Quality in Chains

Eds. Tijskens & Vollebregt                                                                                                                                           69

Acta Hort. 604, ISHS 2003

(jurnal bisa di lihat di Ruang baca Fakultas Pertanian UB)