UW Campus Food Shed addresses food insecurity
MADISON, Wisc — The start of a new school year is right around the corner. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the new year brings new opportunities for students, faculty and staff to have access to fresh produce.
It can be hard to eat healthy food if you are a college student. Between the cost of books, tuition and room and board, by the time you know it, your money is all gone. A new program on campus is trying make it easier to eat well by providing fresh produce for free.
The UW campus Food Shed provides four refrigerators, spread throughout campus on both the west and east side, to give students and faculty access for free. The refrigerators are stocked around three times a week. Even in the summer, program founder, Hannah DePorter, says there is always someone in need.
“People have come every time its stocked. Within 24-hours everything is gone. Last week in this fridge (in the Student Activity Center) alone, we have had 135 pounds of produce donated and it’s all been taken,” she said.
Pictures of donations in the fridge are posted on Facebook to alert students when new food arrives. The goal is to reduce food waste and increase food security on campus.
The access to food has helped senior Jake Roble who knows how it feels to be concerned about the price of food.
“The first couple of years of school, I was financing my own (way) trying to get through college. I remember going to the grocery store was stressful and avoiding it,” he said.
Roble co-created a guide to direct students to accessible and affordable foods around campus; the Food Shed is on the list.
“The rate of students who have food insecurities is higher than we may think,” Roble said. “Around 30 percent of (Pell Grant) recipients in the UW System are currently food insecure. Accessing resources can be sometimes challenging for students. There is an element of shame.”
Since the Food Shed opened in June, DePorter has stocked more than 1,000 pounds of food at locations on both the west and east side of campus. The refrigerators are located in the Student Activity Center, Science Hall, Allen Centennial Gardens and Plant Sciences Building.
DePorter started the program after seeing leftover produce while working in a plant breeding lab and serving as the director of the student agriculture association on campus.
“It feels amazing. Sometimes I wish I could just sit by a refrigerator and see everyone who comes to see how they are liking it and how it’s impacting them,” DePorter said.
DePorter is working with a handful of farms in the area that donate produce on a consistent basis. Many of donations have also been spurred by word of mouth.
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