A unique collaboration between two college departments brings student-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need across campus.
CalFresh Outreach, a program to assist students who may need help with food access, recently partnered with the Horticulture and Crop Science Department to host a weekly, two-hour Pop-Up Pantry in the heart of campus offering free produce grown by students on the Cal Poly campus.
The goal is two-fold. “We want to share the healthy bounty of Cal Poly-grown fruits and vegetables with our campus community and to raise awareness of food access and food security issues on campus,” said Aydin Nazmi, director of the project and associate professor in the Food Science and Nutrition Department.
Jill Caggiano, who oversees the sale of campus produce, said that the Horticulture and Crop Science Department has long contributed to the local food bank through Glean SLO, a network of volunteers that harvests or collects excess fruits and vegetables. “We are thrilled to now be a part of the on campus effort to reduce food insecurity,” she said. “It is also a great way for us to let students who might not be familiar with our program know what we do and let them know that they get a discount at both campus u-pick events and farmers markets.”
Student leaders of CalFresh Outreach use the weekly Pop-Up Pantry to spread awareness of Cal Poly’s other free food resources available to students such as CalFresh Outreach, campus food pantries, and the Mustang Meal Share program that allows students to donate up to 10 meals per quarter from their dining plan to students in need.
Earlier this year Cal Poly was awarded renewed funding to increase CalFresh enrollment among students in an effort to help them gain access to healthy food, as part of a 40-campus statewide effort to increase CalFresh program enrollment among college students. Since 2016, Cal Poly’s CalFresh Outreach project has increased student participation in the program through eligibility determination, application completion, and post-enrollment follow up.
“Food is a basic human right,” Nazmi said. “And Cal Poly has many free and effective resources to help anyone get food. Everybody deserves to have healthy food.”
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