Starting in fall 2016, U.Va. Dining will allow students to use plus dollars from their meal plans to purchase Greens to Grounds products. Greens to Grounds, a non-profit, student-run agricultural organization, launched at the University in the fall of 2014. The community-supported group is dedicated to making fresh, local food accessible to students. When the partnership becomes effective, students with meal plans will no longer need to spend extra money to purchase Greens to Grounds products. Students can choose between the pre-built snack boxes and produce boxes, and menus are updated every week. These healthy and nutritious base packages typically cost around 10 dollars, or less. Boxes contain a variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, as well as dairy and bread items. Students can place their orders for these products online. Greens to Grounds’s bigger mission is to support food produced by local farmers and encourage students’ participation in sustainable lifestyles. Local Food Hub, a Charlottesville-based organization which partners with Virginia farmers to increase community access to local food, also works with Greens to Grounds to plan what goes inside their food boxes. Laura Brown, director of Communications and Marketing at Local Food Hub, said there has been constant demand for local food from U.Va. Dining and restaurants at the downtown area. “Students who are participating have the mindset that investing in Greens to Grounds is not only good for their health, but also for local economy,” Brown said. Students should actively consider what businesses they are supporting when they purchase food, and continue to buy from local producers regardless of what else is available, Brown said. Local Food Hub Sales Associate Will Clark said as more local food enters the market, ultimately the prices of those products will drop for consumers. Elaine Lidholm, director of the Office of Communications at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the partnership between Greens to Grounds also has various educational and health benefits. “It will benefit Virginia farmers as it opens new and different markets for them,” Lidholm said. “It may have equal, even bigger benefits for students, since fresh products are just more nutritious.” Lidholm also said she believes a program like this will increase appreciation for farmers, as it will educate students on what is involved in the heavy work of farming. The initiative is a part of the University’s attempt to increase student access to locally grown produce. The partnership will be one of its first kind at a state university.