Student Supported Agriculture brings fresh produce to students
A group of students from Tulane and Loyola University New Orleans have created a program that allows students to have better access to local fresh food. Photo by Meg Harlan
A group of students from Tulane and Loyola University New Orleans have created a program that allows students to have better access to fresh food grown in the local area that also serves to empower local farmers in their work.
Student Supported Agriculture recently began its first round of produce delivery to students who have subscribed to their program.
While attending high school in New York, Sam Kiyomi Turner of Tulane and Alex Goldman of Loyola helped establish a solidarity organization called Our School at Blair Grocery to build mutually beneficial economic relationships with the communities of the Ninth Ward.
OSBC is an organization dedicated to youth empowerment and sustainable development with an emphasis on community farming.
"We are the only organization giving jobs to youth in the neighborhood by far," Turner said.
Tulane sophomore Emma Lisec is heavily involved in SSA and is trying to bring fresh and local food to students' doorsteps.
"We want to raise awareness of the ability to connect institutions such as OSBG and Tulane," Lisec said, "while also creating mutually beneficial relationships where both parties can benefit equally."
Goldman sees the existing system of food distribution as a problem that needs to be solved.
"We currently lack a sustainable infrastructure between farmers and consumers," Goldman said, "For example, Louisiana has a perfect climate for growing citrus, but we get most of our citrus products from hundreds of miles away."
Bringing local food to the table through an OSBG partnership with Tulane could help solve problems of sustainability as well as helping the youth of the Ninth Ward.
"Food is an intersectional solution to a variety of problems," Turner said, "OSBG works through youth empowerment to grow food for the community while also providing pedagogical tools to ameliorate problems like unemployment and youth incarceration."
Developing a community farm capable of delivering what the community needs, however, is not an easy process and farmers are constantly faced with challenges.
"The economics of farming are quite simple," Turner said. "You need to spend a good amount of money to be able to turn a profit on the harvest."
If there is no money at hand for organizations like OSBG, it is much more difficult for them to grow in size.
"OSBG is having trouble leveraging capital to reach an economy of scale in order to sell a substantial amount of food," Turner said. "So the main problem here is with investment capital."
The ideal model of this partnership would involve the community essentially purchasing shares of the farm at the beginning of the season and sharing the benefits, or the risks, of the labor.
"Students have the social and economic capital that can be used to help support farmers do the work that they want to do," Goldman said. "SSA is now experiencing a learning curve to figure out which model can benefit both parties best in the future."
When SSA buys produce in bulk, the students enjoy a cheaper price than what they would have paid at the grocery store.
"We noticed a strong demand for local fresh produce and an overall disappointment with food services on campus," Lisec said. "So we started a subscription plan where students can have a bag with various types of produce delivered to them."
The students of SSA believe that they can greatly help Sodexo in their mission to become more locally oriented.
"Tulane brands itself [as a] progressive institution and our work with SSA and OSBG can help us move forward in the right direction," Turner said.
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