A program that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to the food pantry at Cal Poly Pomona is the winner of the 2023 One Team Award.
Farm to Pantry, which launched in 2021 to help the Poly Pantry expand its healthy offerings, also gives students who grow the produce a hands-on learning experience and an opportunity to work with faculty and staff to host monthly volunteer events.
In a video message to campus on Wednesday, President Soraya M. Coley announced the winner of the annual award, which recognizes and celebrates the achievements of cross-divisional and cross-departmental teams.
Farm to Pantry is a collaborative effort involving the Poly Pantry, the Bronco Care Center, the College of Environmental Design, John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, the Huntley College of Agriculture’s Department of Plant Science, University Advancement, and the ASI Bronco Events and Activities Team.
“We’re very excited,” said Plant Science Associate Professor Aaron Fox, who nominated the program. “It’s a big effort on our parts, so it is nice to be acknowledged.”
The Poly Pantry was established in 2019 in response to student food insecurity. During that time, a statewide CSU survey found that more than 40 percent of students were experiencing food insecurity, Fox said. The Farm to Pantry program was created to find a cost-effective way to harvest campus-grown fruits and vegetables to help the pantry fulfill its mission.
During the 2020-21 academic year, the Randal Lewis Lyle Center Fellowship program was established, in which faculty and staff teach the student fellow how to sustainably grow food, and the fellows help faculty and staff host monthly volunteer events. One Saturday per month, students from a variety of majors plant, weed and harvest the fruits and vegetables donated to the pantry.
Students have grown, harvested and donated 1,740 pounds of food to the Poly Pantry in the past year, and the program has hosted eight volunteer events totaling 320 volunteer hours, according to Fox. The hope is to grow the program and get more staff, faculty and community members involved, he added.
Lewis continues to support the program, donating $36,750 just this year alone.
LA Urban Farms also agreed to donate a six-foot grow tower to the university that will be used to grow vegetables indoors that will be donated to the pantry.
Members of the One Team Committee lauded the Farm to Pantry program for its broad reach and its adherence to the university’s core values of student learning and success, social and environmental responsibility, experiential learning, inclusivity and community engagement.
“I was impressed with the grassroots nature of the program, their ability to maximize limited resources, the high level of student participation, including at leadership levels, and the ability for the entire CPP community to be involved through volunteer engagement,” said Jesús Ávalos, chair of the One Team Award Committee and the learning and development manager for Employee and Organizational Development and Advancement.
Fox said the program would not have been possible without cross-departmental collaboration.
“The pantry is a great resource on campus, and they do a lot for our students,” he said. “For us, Farm to Pantry is not only about growing fruits and vegetables, but we are helping to build community and build awareness because in one way or another, we all could need help at some point. This is a way to help get rid of the stigma around food insecurity and to make sure we’re creating a community of care on campus.”
For more information about the Farm to Pantry program and how to get involved, contact Professor Aaron Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.