For the past three years, University of Rhode Island students have been able to go to the quad every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and grab as much free, fresh produce as they need. The URI Free Farmer’s Market is one of the leading events aimed at combating food insecurity on campus, but their goal is to reach as many students as they possibly can.
The Free Farmer’s Market offers an array of fresh produce grown less than a mile away at URI farms that are harvested by students. They are then sent to the market and are put up for grabs for any URI student, making this event run by students, for students.
Staff members such as Dr. Amanda Missimer, a clinical assistant professor of nutrition, and Kelli Kidd, campus and sports nutrition specialist, serve as co-coordinators of the event, helping it run smoothly.
Run by the Plants and Cells program, the excess produce that is not used for any class is harvested and sent to the farmer’s market so it can be used and enjoyed.
“It’s run by Dr. Brown… so through her class, she has her students and we have a pool of volunteers who go down [to the teaching garden] and harvest the produce,” Kidd said.
The market is also utilizing all of the produce grown and minimizing waste. They have students doing all of the harvesting for credit or volunteer purposes which gets rid of the need for machinery.
Farmer’s Market customers are also encouraged to “bring their reusable bags, and bring their egg cartons back,” Missimer said.
Anyone looking for ways to be more sustainable should make sure to keep an eye out for an announcement of a new sustainability event at the end of September. The event looks to work more closely with the use of composting and understanding how to get the most out of your vegetables.
Missimer even said that part of the event will show how to “use the tops of your carrots as pesto” and other things that people might not have known about food sustainability.
While the event may have started with a “table, a pop-up tent, and a quickly printed sign from Staples,” the event has grown to include many volunteers and has basically doubled in size, Kidd said. Serving alongside Rhody Outpost, the market serves as a way to battle food insecurity within campus.
The ever-present stigma around food insecurity creates even more of a need for the farmer’s market. Market manager Delaney Borello said that she has “definitely seen people be nervous to take food,” but believes that the atmosphere of the market can help to alleviate that fear.
Ever since the pandemic, levels of food insecurity have been on the rise in Rhode Island. According to Missimer, one in four households struggle with food insecurity.
She explained that accompanied by the reality of being a college student, this means that many URI students will not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Costs of produce have skyrocketed, meaning students with limited funds would have almost no way of getting the necessary nutrients and vitamins fresh produce provides. All the aspects that are fighting against college students; price, proximity, accessibility and location are almost completely erased with the Free Farmer’s Market.
Another area on campus dedicated to helping students meet their basic needs is the Rhody Outpost, located at the dining services warehouse.
The Rhody Outpost is stocked with almost any item a student could need “such as hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies, canned food, fresh food that we provide them with our farms,” Borello said.
Students who are struggling to fulfill their basic needs are welcome to stop by the Outpost and take what they need. Another program designed to aid in food insecurity is “Swipe for Hope,” run in conjunction with food services and the Dean of Students. Through this program, students can donate their leftover dining hall swipes to a student in need.
Every Thursday from now through October students can visit the Quad for free produce grown right here at URI. The Free Farmer’s Market is just one of the many ways that URI is helping in the fight against hunger.