Farm to College

Center for Agroecology provides opportunities for students to grow organic produce for themselves and in solidarity with their student community to address student food insecurity at UCSC

Our Food Systems initiative, led by our incredibly passionate staff and student staff, at UC Santa Cruz links the Center’s Farm on the campus with offsite partners and UCSC campus organizations to cultivate a vibrant regional food and farming network that activates service learning, internships, and applied research opportunities. Student leaders and staff grow and connect organic produce as well as prepare added value products from local farms to nourish campus food security and basic needs efforts. In addition we work closely with campus dining with our Real Food Calculator Team on supply chain assessment and exploring new products and ways to increase a more just and sustainable campus food system.  Building on our previous Farm to College project, the Center is committed to cultivating new research, education, and public service opportunities for UCSC students. The passage of UCSC's Measure 43, the Sustainable Food, Health, and Wellness Initiative in Spring 2010 created more opportunities than ever for UCSC students to learn about and get involved in food systems activities.

UCSC has been noted by many leading rankings and awards as a prime public national model for the growing “farm-to-college” movement which, like the K–12 farm-to-school movement, is bringing fresh, local produce to student dining halls through direct relationships between farmers and educational institutions. Farm-to-school or farm-to-college arrangements help farmers gain more of the food dollar, benefit local economies, and help students gain access to locally-produced, fresh food.

While Farm-to-College commitments have served primarily first year students with meal plans, our increasing efforts to focus on basic needs serve a larger demographic of students at UCSC. Farm-to-College dining sales have been focused and reduced while we’ve expanded basic needs-oriented production, communication, and distribution, as well as academic and co-curricular partnerships. This shift is driven by our values and priority to serve a greater number of students aligned with food security and equity/access efforts at UCSC.

CASFS supports a range of efforts to ensure that all students have access to healthy food, with many projects featuring organic produce grown at the UCSC Farm. Get details on hours and locations of these projects as well as information on additional resources on the UCSC Basic Needs website. Read more about UCSC Basic Needs Initiatives here.

From Farm-to-College to Basic Needs

Since the Summer of 2017, CASFS has integrated a Basic Needs Program into their daily operations to address student food insecurity. The 10-acre Field site at CASFS has been focusing production to serve basic needs efforts on-campus. In the past two years, we have increased our production for basic needs totaling over $60,000 in donations to student food security support on campus. Produce from the UCSC farm has been regularly donated to the Slug Support Pantry, the SUA Food Pantry, Family Student Housing’s bi-weekly distributions, a weekly distribution for EOP students at the Academic Resource Center, and more. Given the increase of funding to CASFS Basic Needs efforts (which has significantly accounted for our costs in production) we are further aligning our production to increase yields for food security projects across UCSC. This funding has allowed for significant professional and student staff management time for basic needs production and distribution, as well as key infrastructural pieces to assist in year-round efficient production to serve as many students as possible. 

At a UC system-wide level, CASFS staff member Tim Galarneau co-chairs the UC Basic Needs Initiative that emerged out of the UC Global Food Initiative (UC GFI website). His efforts include developing system-wide plans and ongoing support for basic needs programs to serve the many UC students facing food and housing insecurity. Read more about this work on the UC Basic Needs Website recently launched. 

COVID-19 and Basic Needs Efforts

Since March 2020 students, staff, and faculty have adjusted protocols and programs to continue to meet student needs while ensuring safety for all. The CASFS Farm suspended production for the season and is now looking to ramp up for full production in Summer 2021. In the meantime, we pivoted to source local, organic produce from the Santa Cruz Farmers Market Association, uplifting local farms into UCSC distribution and support channels. Programs such as the Slug Support Pantry, Cowell Coffee Shop, and Produce Pop-Up also shifted to provide appointment-based, socially distanced guided, weekly pick-ups of fresh and prepared food, including weekly meal kits offering 10-12 meals per kit for individual and parenting students. In addition, Slug Support case management offers remote grocery e-gift card assistance, electronic meal swipes to access dining, as well as supplemental housing support and technology assistance to ensure students can be resourced amidst the crisis and challenges faced. For up to date access and program offerings this year, please check out basicneeds.ucsc.edu.

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