Life & Style

The privilege of local food access on and around campus

Access to food is a privilege many of us forget to consider a privilege. Many cities and communities around the nation are without access to the simplest of ingredients, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Without grocery stores or cheap produce, residents are forced to resort to eating processed junk food and fast food to simply survive. Here on and around the UW-Madison campus, we are privileged enough to have several reliable and affordable sources of fresh, local food that we may sometimes forget to fully appreciate.

The Dane County Farmer’s Market is probably the most salient around campus. It provides a wide array of farm to table options for more than just UW-Madison students. Attracting people from around the state every Saturday, the Farmer’s Market has around 275 vendors that make appearances throughout the season selling personally produced items. Some well-loved stands include cheese, bread, flowers, bakery goods, honey, meats and more.

A smaller version of the market sets up Wednesdays on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and gives people a chance to restock their fresh produce in the middle of the week. The market promotes students and locals to make healthy decisions, contribute to the local economy and even boost their immune systems by investing in the fresh food.

Slow Food Madison, an on-campus student organization, is a part of the larger Slow Food movement throughout the country that dedicates their efforts to providing “good, clean and fair food for all.” Every Monday and Wednesday at the Crossing Church, over 40 student interns, volunteers and local chefs team up to prepare an extensive dinner and lunch menu for the public to enjoy.

Playing off the term “fast food,” slow food works to “showcase the connections between food, culture, politics and the environment.” As the largest and most active university chapter in the US, Slow Food UW connecting the environment and the food on our plate, all at an affordable price.

Another smaller on campus feature providing access to fresh, local produce includes the weekly FH King produce giveaway. Every Friday at 2 P.M., the student organization sets up a tent at East Campus Mall to give away about 200 pounds of fresh produce grown from their garden plot located at the Eagle Heights community garden, as well as from the Rooftop Garden at the Pyle Center. Students can line up outside the tent to collect any produce items they wish, “no questions asked,” says Elissa Koppel, the Programming Director for the club. The remaining produce is dropped off at Food Sheds located around campus.

As a new project on campus, the Food Sheds are another way students and faculty can find fresh produce. Student Hannah DePorter came up with the original idea of utilizing the vegetables produced from plant breeding in the agriculture program that would otherwise go to waste. She wanted to ensure the resources such as water, soil and energy put into these experiments did not get thrown away. Now, there are refrigerators located within different campus buildings, such as the first floor of Science Hall, Moore Hall and the third floor of the Student Activity Center. Each houses crates of different produce items collected as leftovers from the Saturday Farmer’s Market and agricultural programs.

Having access to fresh, local produce on a college campus is an amenity not many other universities can boast. From community-based events attracting statewide attention, to on-campus student organizations working to ensure all students have equal access to fresh produce, UW-Madison has a wide array of options for students to make conscious efforts for healthy, socially responsible food decisions. It is important for students to recognize and appreciate these amenities as privileges when seeing them in action around campus. 

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