Student-led programs promote food on US campuses

Student farms, gardens, food cooperatives, food justice programs, and more encourage students to learn about sustainable agriculture and improve access to healthy food. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/AP/File
Students sit in the quad to study and converse at Frederick Community College, on October 6, 2015 in Frederick, Md.

Across the United States, students are developing initiatives to promote agriculture and increase access to healthy food on campus.  

In 2012, a report by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic examined the practices by which colleges and universities in Massachusetts bought food and how to increase the amount of local food available for students. According to the report, in Massachusetts, state colleges and universities are not obligated by law to prefer local food. 

There are different types of initiatives, including student farms, gardens, food cooperatives, food justice programs, food access programs, food waste programs, and food education programs. These initiatives encourage students to learn about sustainable agriculture. They also improve access to healthy food for students and people in the community. Check out these student-led agriculture initiatives from across the U.S.  

1.  Berkeley Student Food Collective (Berkeley, California, United States)     

The Berkeley Student Food Collective is a student group at the University of California, Berkeley. It aims to increase access to healthy local food to people living on campus and in the surrounding community. Food is offered by the collective at an affordable price. The Berkeley Student Food Collective develops programs to teach students about nutrition and agriculture. These students later become leaders who have the skills to manage a sustainable business. There is also a collective grocery market designed to support community building.

2.  University of Texas at Dallas Community Garden (Dallas, Texas, United States)

In 2006, students at the University of Texas at Dallas created the community garden with financial support from the university. The community garden was moved to a fenced-in area in 2012. Students, faculty, and staff can use the community garden produce fruits and vegetables and learn about natural gardening. Participants can learn new skills by working with other members. For example, participants are educated about the types of vegetables that can grow in Texas. At the community garden, the plots are offered on a first come, first served basis. Members do not need to pay to use the community garden, but they have to attend meetings and garden events. In addition, participants must use organic farming methods and ensure that their plots do not have pests, weeds, and diseases.

3.  Cultivating Community (Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States) 

Cultivating Community is a student group at the University of Michigan that focuses on educating students about food systems in the community. It organizes events at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. It aims to increase awareness about agriculture through organic gardening, outreach, and educational activities. It brings students to local food system organizations and businesses. It organizes workshops about topics such as container gardening and preserving fruits and vegetables. It also works to offer programs to people in the community to talk about small-scale urban gardening and local food systems.

4.  University of Massachusetts Student Farming Enterprise (Amherst, Massachusetts, United States)

The University of Massachusetts Student Farming Enterprise program was started in 2007. The program initially had two students producing a quarter acre of broccoli and kale. The project was incorporated into a year-long class in 2008. The program has fourteen acres and provides food to the University of Massachusetts Student Farmers Market and the University of Massachusetts Dining Services. There are between 12 and 15 student farmers who work during the year. Many students who completed the program have ended up starting their own farms. 

5.  Princeton Garden Project (Princeton, New Jersey, United States) 

The Princeton Garden Project is a student-run campus garden at Princeton University. It is designed to educate students and people in the community about organic agriculture and sustainability. It is considered to be a space where people can learn through experimentation and collaboration. It aims to start a discussion about the role of food systems on the environment and health. It does provide some food for the campus; however, it is mainly used to educate people about food systems.

6.  Sustainable Student Farm (Urbana, Illinois, United States)

The Sustainable Student Farm is an initiative at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The student farm is used as a production farm to provide local food to the residence halls. The student farm is also an area where people in the community and students can learn about small-scale food systems. In addition, the student farm has six acres to grow food and close to 10,000 square feet of high tunnel production. The student farm also sells food to people in the community.

7.  Garden Project (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States)

The Garden Project is a student-led initiative at Marquette University. The project was started in 2012. It initially had twelve raised beds, and it later added more raised beds. Some professors in the Faculty of Health Sciences decided to add the garden as a component in their courses.

8.  Spring Valley Student Farm (Storrs, Connecticut, United States)

The Spring Valley Student Farm is an initiative at the University of Connecticut. The project was started in 2010. There are 11 student farmers who work on the Spring Valley Student Farm. The student farmers are educated about organic food production, sustainable community living, and the business of food production. The farm works with Dining Services to provide local food to students.

9.  Student Food Cooperative (Seattle, Washington, United States) 

The Student Food Cooperative is a student group at the University of Washington. It manages a café and a cart to provide students with healthy food. It works with the University of Washington Farm. It encourages people to increase the consumption of local food and organizes seminars where students can learn about cooperative principles and issues with the food system. 

10.  Agricultural Community Resources for Everyday Sustainability Student Farm (Laramie, Wyoming, United States)

The Agricultural Community Resources for Everyday Sustainability (ACRES) Student Farm is an initiative at the University of Wyoming. It was developed in 2006 by a student at the University of Wyoming. Most of the food produced on the student farm is sold to the Laramie Farmers’ Market. Members are encouraged to use organic farm methods. In addition, members do not use herbicides, synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers to grow the food. Members produce fruits and vegetables such as spinach, carrots, strawberries, and tomatoes. The student farm has a solar powered harvest facility where members can wash the food after harvesting. The student farm also provides food to people in the community.      

This story originally appeared on Food Tank.

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