Food Bank Makes Produce a Priority

Group's New Funds To Boost Student Nutrition, Starting With Fruits and Veggies

Jason Lin/TBL Photography

Shomik Mukherjee
Opinions Editor

Free heads of lettuce and boxes of fresh strawberries highlighted some of the fresh fruits and vegetables available Saturday afternoon at “Produce First,” an event hosted at Anisq’Oyo’ Park by Associated Students Food Bank, in collaboration with other student-run organizations.

Organizers handed event-goers “passports” on arrival. Upon visiting four tables and receiving information about food sustainability, attendees could exchange their completed passports for bags of produce, which also included oranges, bananas, avocados and cucumbers. The topics covered at the tables ranged from water use for animal agriculture to the average distance a carrot travels between a farm and a household (the answer: 1,838 miles).

Workers from the A.S. Department of Public Worms offered information on the value of composting. Vermicomposting, which is the process of composting with worms, can produce nutrient-rich fertilized soil. Attendees who stopped by the table could pick up their own “water bottle gardens,” or water bottles filled with soil and seeds of the event-goer’s choice.

Food Bank committee member and third-year political science major Steven Marquardt discussed the need for events like Produce First to raise awareness of sustainability efforts and organic foods among the student population. The Food Bank pantry — located on the top floor of the University Center — offers free toiletries, fresh produce and snacks to all students on campus, particularly those from lower-income backgrounds.

Marquardt said efforts like educational events and the pantry are designed to encourage healthy eating among college students, pointing to the healthy food as key to academic performance.

“We should not be expected to eat ramen just because we’re college students,” he said.

The event comes after the recent success of Food Bank’s proposed fee increase in the 2016 A.S. elections. The committee will now receive an undergraduate quarterly lock-in fee of $4.96, compared to a previous fee of $1.80.

Third-year psychology major and Committee Chair Yanira Flores said the increase will allow Food Bank to provide a diverse amount of food to students who need it. Such diversity will begin with nutritious foods like produce, she said.

Flores emphasized that while most students have access to food, not all of that food has nutritional value.

“A lot of students on this campus aren’t food secure,” she said. “With events like these, we can show people that it’s important to eat fresh food.”