For students attending three Burlington area colleges, picking up a basketful of locally grown vegetables is an easy stopover on the way to class, thanks to a four-year-old program created by the Intervale Food Hub.
Connecting local food producers with local consumers is a big part of what the food hub does.
Vegetables, fruit, dairy products, baked goods and meats from about 45 Vermont producers come into the hub to supply a year-round program for local residents who sign up for weekly deliveries.
There’s also a program geared to college students, which resumed deliveries this week.
Every Monday at the food hub, staff members fill dozens of the familiar plastic supermarket baskets with corn, salad greens, peppers, potatoes and other vegetables, then truck them to campus drop off locations.
Kendall Frost, the food hub’s marketing and outreach coordinator, says supporting local farms motivates some students to sign up. Others like the idea that they don’t have to go out of their way to visit a supermarket in order stock the refrigerator.
“Part of the convenience is we deliver a consistent amount of food on a weekly basis and we also do newsletters with recipes and cooking tips,” says Frost.
Frost expects about 160 students to sign up for the weekly deliveries at the University of Vermont, Champlain College and St. Michaels College.
The cost for a 12-week fall harvest basket comes to about $21 per week. For an extra cost, students can add things like eggs, meat and dairy products.
“Twenty dollars per week seems to be a comfortable price point for a lot of students, and we find that they might share with one roommate or more,” says Frost.
That’s the case with two students collecting their vegetables this week at UVM’s Davis Center. Brandon Riley and Jamie Martell are both Vermont students, from Townsend and Brattleboro, respectively. It was Martell’s idea to sign up for the program.
“I just thought it was a good way to get fresh vegetables every week and something we don’t have to worry about buying every week from the grocery store. It’s local and organic,” he says.
He first heard about the program in an environmental studies class.
Frost says there is a large concentration of environmental and agricultural sciences students signed up for the deliveries, along with students studying health-related fields.
The program depends largely on word-of-mouth; Frost says most students live off campus where they have more access to a kitchen.
Emma Waters of Norwich has already considered how she’ll put some of her order to use. She’s planning to make a broccoli-cheddar soup.
“It’s nice to have local vegetables and to know they’re going to be there every week and to know that I’ve already paid for them,” says Waters.
The total number of UVM students subscribing to the food hub’s program is growing, but still relatively small. However, student access to locally-produced food is poised to take a leap forward.
The hub is working with Sodexo, UVM’s food service provider to include more locally sourced products in the food the company serves on-campus.
Sodexo, a multinational corporation that provides food to a number of colleges and institutions in the state, pledged last week to increase the amount of local food it uses.