MSU Farms Donate Fresh Produce to Local Food Banks

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MSU and the Greater Lansing Food Bank have partnered for 25 years to provide for low-income families and individuals. (view larger image)

Today’s economy is leaving many families facing tough choices.

That’s where a partnership between MSU and the Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) comes in. The partnership, in its 25th year, is all about providing those families, individuals and agencies with fresh produce from MSU farms.

The GLFB provides volunteers through its Garden Project Gleaning Program to harvest surplus produce from the on-campus farms and distributes it to low-income families, individuals and agencies that serve those in need.

The food is distributed to food pantries, human services organizations and residents of low-income housing. The thorough field harvest completed by the volunteers benefits the farm, but the main priority is benefiting the undernourished people in the greater Lansing area.

“We see this as a wonderful outgrowth of the research programs that take place at the campus farms,” said Doug Buhler, MAES associate director. “It is gratifying to see MSU farm staff members partner with the local community in this way. Providing quality food and supporting the nutritional health and well-being of needy members of our community is really in the spirit of an institution like MSU.”

So far this year, the on-campus farms have donated nearly 69,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits, including sweet corn, cherries, pears, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, dried beans, onions, zucchini and cabbage. The GLFB estimates that the donated food is worth $74,677.55.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the foods most lacking in diets of low-income individuals,” said Anne Rauscher, director of the Garden Project. “The partnership between MSU and the gleaners is a wonderful way to ensure that fresh, local foods get to people who need them.”

Last year, the on-campus farms and gleaners teamed up to give more than 220,000 pounds of fresh foods to the GLFB.

This year, the numbers are still being tabulated—harvest of the on-campus farms is about halfway done, said Gary Zehr, who manages the plant pathology farm.

The donated crops were harvested from crop and soil sciences farms, horticulture farms, the muck farm and the plant pathology farm. As of Sept. 17, the crop and soil sciences farms had donated 3,840 pounds; the horticulture farms, 15,083 pounds; the muck farm, 4,815 pounds; and the plant pathology farm, 45,221 pounds.

All four on-campus farms are part of the MAES on-campus field station, one of 15 field stations throughout Michigan. The on-campus research farms provide land and facilities for research conducted by MSU faculty members in the departments of Forestry, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Animal Science, Crop and Soil Sciences and Horticulture, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Much of our research is conducted and paid for by industry, so we can’t really sell the crops—that would compete with the people we’re trying to help,” said Ray Hammerschmidt, chairperson of the Department of Plant Pathology. “The gleaning project provides good quality produce to people who have a real need for the nutrients available in fresh produce. The crops go to a much better use than making compost.”

By the Numbers:

  • 25—Number of years MSU and the Greater Lansing Food Bank have been teaming up to get fresh food into the hands of people who need it.
  • 247,000—Pounds of food donated by on-campus MSU farms in 2007.
  • 68,959—Pounds of food donated so far by on-campus MSU farms in 2008.
  • $74,677.55—Dollar value of food donated so far in 2008.
  • 3.4 million—Pounds of fresh produce donated in 25 years (through 2007)
  • 150,000—Pounds (or more) donated each year since 1991.

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