Fighting student hunger with Farm Share

Students pose with bags full of food | Photo credit: Sydne Vigille

Students with food insecurities, who do not have meal plans, or the funds to buy groceries are left with very few options of nutritious food. Recognizing this need, Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Student Health Services decided to take action.

Farm Share at FAMU was established by Student Health Services Director Tanya Tatum in August 2013. Student Health Services Office Manager Harriet Jennings recalled the moment of inspiration.

“We had a student that kept coming in sick, kept saying his stomach hurt and they couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but he was hungry,” Jennings said. “He was from Jacksonville and he was waiting for his mother to get paid at the end of the month, but he was having problems the beginning of May…That is when we discovered the insecurities of our students here on campus.”

Food insecurity is defined as the lack of consistent available resources to access adequate food, which is a problem that affects urban and rural communities including college students. According to Farm Share’s website, 1 in 6 adults in Florida are hungry or food insecure, which represents 2.5 million adults in the state.

In a collaboration effort with Farm Share of Gadsden County, Student Health Services (SHS) distributes food to students free of charge. With the help of the program, students and faculty have the access they need to fresh fruits and vegetables that would be otherwise missing from their diet. Farm Share’s distribution takes place each Tuesday at the Student Health Service Complex. Students are welcome to come at 12 p.m. while faculty and staff are welcome at 1 p.m.

According to the organization’s website, Farm Share is a non-profit organization that teams up with local farmers that have an excess of harvested fresh produce. Instead of the surplus of food being wasted, the food is sent via truck to participating soup kitchens, homeless shelters, churches and other organizations throughout the region.

It is not just the staff at Student Health Services that does the heavy lifting, but also the students of FAMU. Students that help with distribution are able to earn volunteer service hours and take home a package of the food that was delivered that day.

Imani Jenkins is a sophomore pre-elementary education student who lives off campus, but makes it a priority to come to the weekly food giveaway. She enjoys how the items distributed each week varies.

Student prepares food packages | Photo credit: Sydne Vigille

“I enjoy the fact that I have access to a variety of foods,” Jenkins said. “Farm Share makes it easier by providing all sorts of nutritious foods.”

Leftover items from the distribution are put on the snack table at Student Health Services and given out to various residence halls on campus. Along with Farm Share, there is a food pantry located in Student Health Services that students can access if they need emergency food items and personal hygiene products.

Currently, Student Health Services is in partnership with Second Harvest of the Big Bend and is on the search for a building that can hold more food. This new building would hold more food including dairy and frozen items.

Junior political science student Kendrick Walker is among the dozens of students that frequently visits the program. He credits Farm Share to helping him during hard times.

“Farm Share has helped me with the struggle for not being able to purchase food on my own,” said Walker. “I live off campus so I am losing money to rent and utilities, but Farm Share takes some of the weight off of my shoulders plus it allows me to meet new people on campus that I haven’t met yet.”