The University Farm at N.C. A&T has donated 1,308 pounds of produce worth about $3,205 to community hunger relief agencies this year, and is still harvesting. Working through Share the Harvest, Backpack Beginnings, the Bonner Center for Community Learning at Guilford College and other community groups, the farm has provided fresh produce to as many as 16 agencies in and around Greensboro, where food insecurity remains high.
The farm’s surplus can be used to alleviate that problem, says John Beck, horticulture unit coordinator at the farm and program associate for Cooperative Extension. Last year, the farm provided 5,738 pounds of produce worth about $12,700.
Although the farm’s primary mission is still to provide vegetables and small fruit crops for applied research and demonstration, a fair amount of the harvest is always left over. Beck and farm support staff harvest, weigh and package the crops for Share the Harvest and other agencies to pick up.
Thanks to the farm’s high tunnels, the harvest continues to flow even when the plants’ traditional growing seasons are over, offering: mustard greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, pac choi, salad mix, chard, eggplant, basil, pea shoots and even strawberries.
That’s good news for a city that has 17 identified food deserts, in which residents have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and one of the highest overall food insecurity ratings in the country, according to a 2015 report by the Food Research and Action Center.
For people in need, every little bit adds up. If one person consumed one pound of fresh produce each day, the farm’s 2015 donations would be enough to provide 16 people with enough fresh fruits and vegetables for an entire year, according to the farm’s donation report.
“The goal is to target food insecurity,” Beck says. “We are pleased to be able to help.”