Colorado State University Article

By Nancy Lofholm | Photography by Alec Jacobson

The sun was starting to crank from bake to broil on a Sunday morning in August, as a gang of wagon-pulling volunteers headed into a vegetable plot at Colorado State University’s Western Campus near Grand Junction.

Over the next two hours, these teachers, nurses, retirees, and students would rifle through vines searching out prime cucumbers and watermelons. They would cheerfully form bucket brigades to load the harvest onto trucks. Then, this fresh produce – along with more fruits and vegetables picked by other volunteer crews – would be delivered to local food banks, soup kitchens, and schools to help people struggling with poverty and hunger. Some of the produce would go by semi-trucks to Food Bank of the Rockies in Denver for distribution across 14 other counties.

During the course of the harvest season, from July to October, volunteers would spend 820 hours in university plots and orchards near the foot of Grand Mesa. They would harvest and deliver more than 97,000 pounds of fresh produce – apples, peaches, melons, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and more – to people in need on Colorado’s Western Slope. At the same time, 800 local schoolchildren would visit the fields to learn about food and nutrition, often fixing meals in a CSU teaching kitchen with fruits and veggies they had picked. Paid college interns would meantime log nearly 1,600 hours of work-based learning about dietetics, food insecurity, and community engagement.

The buzzing activity was all part of the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief, a program established two years ago on CSU’s Western Campus. It has quickly gained notice as a model for connecting the university’s agricultural resources to community education and problem-solving in the spheres of food, science, and hunger relief. Indeed, Colorado State recognized the alliance as its 2018-2019 best emerging program for community-engaged scholarship. The Colorado Department of Education recently commended the Community Alliance for exemplifying valuable partnerships with local schools…

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