After working for months preparing, tilling, planting, watering and weeding the new row crop garden at UT’s Wright-Whitaker Sports Complex, Campus Environmental Center (CEC) Microfarm students were just gearing up to harvest their first crop of lettuce, radishes, kale, onions, cauliflower, and carrots when campus, and the farm, were shut down in response to COVID-19. Not wanting the vegetables and the students’ hard work to go to waste during a time when so many families were in need, Office of Sustainability staff, with support from Rec Sports, began harvesting the crops and were able to donate over 140 pounds of fresh produce to the Central Texas Food Bank. Alongside this effort, the Microfarm student team came together to raise enough funds to supply over 2,500 meals for the Central Texas Food Bank. Fortunately, Microfarm leaders Sarah Holdeman and Sally Jung were able to return to the garden in May and began donating fresh produce and herbs to the UT Outpost food pantry.
In addition to the fresh food donations from the CEC Microfarm, the UT Outpost also received a large financial donation from the Green Fund in support of their efforts to address student food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis. The student majority Green Fund committee views the work of the UT Outpost as essential in advancing social equity, a major tenant of sustainability. The committee was unanimous in their decision to provide funding to support this critical student need.
“The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of challenges for our students; one of which is the access to food. We know food insecurity never takes a day off; not even during a pandemic. In March, we started to see an increased demand for food assistance especially as the ripples of the pandemic started to further impact our Longhorns. Thanks to the support and funding from the Green Fund grant, the UT Outpost was able to quickly shift our programming to a food delivery model. We were able to provide, on average, 30 lbs. of food per delivery to students still living in Austin. Furthermore, the Green Fund grant allowed us to purchase both shelf-stable food and fresh produce food directly from suppliers. Not only did the grant support the UT Outpost during the Spring 2020 semester, the funding also helped us to keep on delivering nutritious foods throughout the summer months! To date, the Green Fund allowed the UT Outpost to distribute over 36,100 meals to our Longhorns. We are very thankful for the support of the Green Fund grant. None of this would have been possible without their aid!” -- Will Ross, Coordinator of UT Outpost
Microfarm student leader, Sarah Holdeman, showcases a head of cauliflower grown at the student farm in early spring.