By Kai Huang and Anne-Elyse Pitre, CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA members at the University of Maryland
University of Maryland (UMD) Campus Pantry and Terp Farm CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA Projects
Waking up at 6 am to the rising sun; the summer air cool and hanging with dew. This was how summer days start as a CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA member at the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Terp Farm. The weather in both the early and late season is hard to predict, and we lost a few crops along the way. Beating the summer heat is a challenge, but we do it for a good cause. This past season, Terp Farm donated 11,680 pounds of produce, which is approximately 6 tons.
The we involved in this work are two AmeriCorps VISTA members at the University of Maryland working with food security: Kai and Anne-Elyse. Kai coordinates the Terp Farm project, a place of learning and teaching about agriculture, food, health, and the environment. He works closely with Anne-Elyse, who coordinates the Campus Pantry project, which partners with local food programs to address hunger in the UMD community.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought emergency food distribution into focus as the need in our community, as in others, grew. In 2020, Terp Farm shifted production to address this need, donating all farm produce to the UMD Campus Pantry and other local food banks. UMD’s Campus Pantry and Terp Farm are both projects of the UMD Department of Dining Services’ Green Dining Program. The strong collaboration between the projects has positively impacted the university and created a shared vision of a Hunger-Free UMD.
The Campus Pantry has been working since 2014 to combat food insecurity on UMD’s campus, first opening in an old concessions stand in Cole Field House and then on the ground floor of the University Health Center. When the campus went virtual in March, 2020, the Campus Pantry moved all operations to the loading dock of the South Campus Dining Hall and waited for the construction of its new, dedicated space.
The UMD Campus Pantry opened its doors to its new location in June 2021, now equipped with walk-in freezers and refrigerators, and a wide variety of shelf-stable goods and fresh produce. There is a staff of ten undergraduate students who track donations, restock items, and host cooking demonstrations in the Campus Pantry Teaching Kitchen. While the first few weeks saw a surprise visit from squirrels and hiccups with the refrigerator and freezer, the UMD Campus Pantry has since served nearly 800 individuals for 3,600 total visits in the fall 2021 semester.
With the fresh vegetables from the Terp Farm and passion from the staff and volunteer teams, the Campus Pantry has aided in combating food insecurity and provided opportunities for students to learn to cook with fresh, local foods. With the help of Dining Services’ team members and UMD volunteers, we were able to pack bags and distribute goods continuously over the past two years. Thanks to the outpouring of support from the campus and broader community, we continue our efforts to create a Hunger-Free UMD despite the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.
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