With the rising cost of produce, getting groceries can add up quickly for post-secondary students.
To help combat this, the Kwantlen Student Association and the Sustainable Agriculture Student Association (SASA) partnered up this past summer to offer the Free Fresh Produce Program for Kwantlen Polytechnic University students.
The trial began on July 26 and was offered to the first 15 students who signed up. Each student received a bag of produce which changed weekly, ranging from tomatoes and carrots to cabbage from KPU’s farm on the Richmond campus.
Amanda Tam, the secretary for SASA, says the association was offered funding from the KPU Foundation as the donor wanted to support an initiative to combat food insecurity among students.
The SASA is a group of students from the sustainable agriculture program who have the opportunity to participate in their program more by putting on social events, skills training, and launching different food projects for students.
Last year, SASA created a community fridge on the Richmond campus for KPU students to access healthier food.
“We decided that the best way to take this community fridge initiatives a step further if we did have some funding was to partner with the KSA Food Bank,” Tam says.
The SASA decided to partner with the KSA Food Bank because of the system they already have in place for storing and distributing food to students on the Surrey campus while SASA could still work with the KPU farm team at the Richmond campus.
“We [provided] students $20 worth of fresh food,” Tam says. “I think with the donors’ desire to combat food insecurity and enhance the quality of food that students get … is a success,” she says.
Tam says the SASA was initially going to offer the trial program to 25 students, but decided on 15 to see the initiative’s turnout and also because the KSA Food Bank did not have enough space for more produce.
KSA President Abdullah Randhawa says that they have seen success from the Free Fresh Produce Program. While the trial is over, the KSA is hoping to bring back a similar program in the future for students due to the success.
“We just wanted to give it a try, and if it is successful, we will [provide it] more often for students in the future,” Randhawa says. “I think it was a great opportunity to bring free vegetables for students.”
The KSA also offered the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce box program through KPU’s farm school on the Richmond campus, providing a 15 week box subscription of organic produce with a 50 per cent discount for KPU students.
“It is a great opportunity for students to have cheaper vegetables and fruits. As you know, grocery prices for everything are [increasing] in Walmart and everywhere else,” he says, adding that Members Services gave away 15 boxes per day.
“So if [we] can get something for the students on a discounted price, it’s always our first priority.”
Randhawa says that programs like the Free Fresh Produce Program and the CSA box subscription are important as students can receive healthier food options than from big retailers.
“I’ve seen in Walmart and [other stores] and [the produce] is not that fresh. This produce is coming from the KPU Farms, so it’s more healthier.”
Tam says the produce program benefits students in many ways from nutrition to saving time going to the grocery store.
“It’s nice for students to know that their university also wants to support students that may not be able to afford fresh, local produce, so I think that’s how they benefit.”
For more information on the KSA and food initiatives they’re doing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.