“This partnership is a direct expression of our commitment to the community by extending our resources to reach out to the less fortunate,” said Jeff Seemann, dean of the College. “This partnership will be a major component of the future plans of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, because it fits in perfectly with a variety of other food and nutrition research and outreach activities we engage in.”
“The Rhode Island Community Food Bank is thrilled to be collaborating with URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. It makes a lot of sense to use this land to help those in need,” commented Bernie Beaudreau, executive director of the Food Bank. “As we deal with an expected shortfall of food, we know that we can count on this harvest to help.”
The University has committed approximately 5 acres of land to the project, and the Food Bank has agreed to hire a URI student for the summer to manage it. Half of the acreage has already been planted with three varieties of winter squash – buttercup, butternut and blue hubbard squash – and sweet corn will be planted in the remaining acres soon. These crops were selected because of the widespread popularity of sweet corn, which is seldom available at the Food Bank, and because squash stores well and can be consumed over several months in the fall.
The squash seeds were donated by Hart Seed Co., while Schartner Farms has donated the corn seed. Allen Seed Co. has donated a ton of fertilizer, and Hallene Farms has donated herbicide for the project.
The crops will be harvested in September and October by students in URI 101 courses that require community service projects, and by other students from URI’s Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America.
“Students are integrated into this project at every level, from the growing and harvesting of the crops to the development of nutritious recipes and the delivery of nutrition programs in rural and urban communities,” Seemann said.
Ultimately, the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank hope to expand the project to encompass 15 acres in coming years so even more produce can be provided to those in need.
This isn’t the first time that URI has grown fresh produce for the Food Bank and other food pantries. URI Master Gardeners have grown and donated smaller quantities of vegetables for the needy over the last five years, and they also harvest apples from the URI orchards for various food pantries each year. In addition, URI research associate Whitney O’Hanian grew up to 40,000 pounds of produce in each of the last two years as part of her master’s degree research, all of which was donated to the Food Bank.