May 11th, 2020
Agricultural Administration Building (Purdue University/Rebecca Wilcox)x
Typically Purdue University’s Student Farm sells its fresh produce to the campus’ dining venues, offering a true farm-to-table experience for students and faculty. However, with the campus dining rooms closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Purdue College of Agriculture wanted to ensure their produce would not go to waste.
Immediately following the campus shutdown, the College shifted the farm’s focus to help stem the tide of rising food insecurity, which has been brought on by the pandemic. It is estimated that one in eight people in North Central Indiana suffers from food insecurity. Purdue’s efforts in addressing this issue are two-pronged: first, they are donating the farm’s fresh produce to organizations that can distribute it; and secondly, the College of Agriculture made changes to its annual food drive that will have a larger and more immediate impact.
The farm is supplying Food Finders Food Bank, which serves 16 counties across Indiana, as well as the on-campus ACE Food Pantry with its fresh crops. At the moment, leafy greens are primarily in-season for harvest, but Student Farm Manager Chris Adir said that as new crops are ready to harvest and become available, they too will be part of the donations. “We’re going to run the farm for as long and as normally as possible,” Adir said. “We try to always promote the idea that access to healthy food is essential for every community, not just during times like this.”
The farm is taking extra precautions to ensure both its employees and the patrons receiving the donations remain healthy. Farm employees remain distant from one another while harvesting and packaging crops and everyone is required to wear masks and gloves at all times. These efforts are resulting in a donation of 100 bags of fresh produce twice a week.
In conjunction with the Student Farm, the College of Agriculture is altering how it conducts the annual food drive. Instead of collecting food items for donation, the College is requesting monetary contributions through an online portal that will go directly towards supporting the Food Bank. Additionally, the College of Agriculture has teamed up with Purdue Libraries, School of Information Studies, the Colleges of Engineering, Health and Human Sciences, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine, the Honors College, and Polytechnic Institute to raise money. Food Finders estimates that every dollar donated translates into three meals and $25 provides around 75 meals.
With each kind act of feeding and supporting the local community, the Purdue Student Farm is proving itself to be more than a place where students can hone their agriculture skills. As more students enter the program in the coming years, they will forever be reminded of the Farm’s impact during the pandemic.