Arts & Life

Free produce on the plaza

If there’s one thing that unites college students, it’s free food.

With that in mind, the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach has teamed up with the nonprofit organization Food Forward to bring fresh farmers market produce to students for free.

On the second Monday of every month, “Farm to Student: Produce on the Plaza” will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the museum.

The event is brought to life with music provided by 22 West Radio and by Artist in Residence Sarah Beadle who gave cooking demonstrations to students using the same farm-fresh produce being given away. At the event, Beadle created a salad with the fresh lettuce, summer squash and walnuts that were being passed out at the event.

“It’s shocking how much food insecurity there is on our campus,” said Kimberli Meyer, director of the UAM. “We thought since it is our job to nourish people’s souls through art, how do you even start to do that without nourishing their bodies first?”

At the first Farm to Student event, the museum distributed 350 pounds of produce to approximately 150 students — a successful feat to kickstart the new semester, according to the director.

“I was very excited for the event because everyone was provided with nutritious options and recipes so that they knew what to do with the food they were given,” Sabreen Thorne, senior hospitality management major said. “I got some summer squash and zucchini and herbs to make a pasta that there was a recipe for, and it was delicious.”

Most of the produce that comes to CSULB is collected from farmers markets on the second Sunday of each month, and is delivered to campus by Food Forward for the Farm to Student event the next day.

According to Food Forward’s website, their mission is to save produce because according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted while one in six people lack access to food. To combat this, they collect over 300,000 pounds of fresh, local produce every week from fruit trees, farmer’s markets and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. Then, they donate all of the fruits and vegetables to hunger relief agencies, reaching over 100,000 people a month in Southern California.

This event exceeded expectations because all of the produce was taken within the first hour. After the food was gone, an ice cream social took over the second half of the event, attracting more students to the plaza.

Samuel Camarena, the Advancement Analyst, Systemwide University Advancement for the CSU Chancellor’s office began his involvement with the event before he was working for the Chancellor’s office and is now a volunteer for the program. He said that the reason for creating this event was to meet the basic needs of the students in a new, innovative way.

“We wanted to create a fun atmosphere,” Camarena said. “We found a way to mix in art and education so that students could learn some life skills like food prep and different food groups they need to have a balanced diet, while also helping food insecure students.”

The UAM is also working closely with Hospitality Management Professor Libby Gustin and her HFHM 370 class: Exploring Sustainable Food Systems. Gustin manages the vegetable garden on campus, a source that hopes to contribute free produce at the Farm to Student events in the future.

This event is separate from the farmers markets that took place on Wednesdays last year along the friendship walk from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is sponsored by Associated Students Inc. Those farmers markets included baked goods, produce and grilled food that students could purchase, while Farm to Student focuses solely on providing free produce to students.

The next Farm to Student event will take place on Oct. 9 in front of the UAM. The event will be honoring Indigenous People’s Day to celebrate Los Angeles replacing Columbus Day.  

This story was revised on Sept. 29, 2017 to correct the title of Samuel Camarena. 

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