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Student Farm’s ‘Pay-What-You-Can’ Market Stand Provides Affordable Vegetables To Students

The Dr. Keiko Miwa Ross Student Farm has created a “pay-what-you-can,” Feed the People Market Stand to provide affordable, farm-fresh produce for students on campus. This stand runs from 2:30 to 5 p.m. every Wednesday in the HUB and will close for the season after November 1.

Unlike typical farmers market stands, the Student Farm Club stand has no set price for its offerings. Instead, students are encouraged to pay what they’re comfortable with, ensuring that everyone can access fresh food regardless of their bank account balance. 

Food insecurity, which refers to when a person has limited access to affordable food, is often a reality for many current college students.

“The main reason for the stand is to address food insecurity on campus,” Student Farm Club member and intern Rebecca Durbin said. “Regular markets usually don’t provide decent produce and it is way too overpriced for college students to afford.”

The leafy produce sold is sourced directly from the Student Farm on campus, located at the intersection between Big Hollow and Fox Hollow Roads. From large heads of broccoli to bundles of cabbage, the farm provides an array of cost-effective greens to the Penn State community. 

Each item is harvested by volunteers on the Student Farm and is then transported to the vegetable cellar behind Eisenhower Theater in preparation for the Wednesday sale. From there, Durbin and the rest of the student interns weigh, package, and wheel the produce to the HUB. Durbin shared that having a location, like the HUB, that’s central and extremely populated was a top priority for the group. 

“It’s central to campus, so there’s a lot of foot traffic, and students can see it as they are walking to class, from class, wherever,” Durbin said.

The stand started with a prime location at the top of the HUB Lawn but has since moved inside to shelter from the cooler fall weather.  

In addition to providing an assortment of vegetables, the stand also offers free recipes. These farm-friendly, grab-and-go recipes are there to help students create delicious meals with their low-cost produce. From mac and cheese to smoothies, students are ensured they can put their food to good use. 

The Dr. Keiko Miwa Ross Student Farm Club isn’t the only organization included in the Feed the People Market Stand, as the project is a collaborative initiative with the Lion’s Pantry.

The group runs the on-campus food pantry on Big Hollow Road which is available for all University Park students. Both the Lion’s Pantry and the Student Farm Club help work the stand and encourage community awareness about cost-effective food options for Penn State students.

Not only is the stand providing food for the Penn State community, but it’s also supporting local businesses. Anything that isn’t sold at the stand each day is donated to organizations around State College, including local vendor Taproot Kitchen. 

Durbin shared that the community response to the stand has been one of the best parts about its launch. She loves seeing all of the positive reactions and witnessing the impact that having healthy, low-cost produce has on students.

“I love seeing people getting excited about vegetables, especially ones that are pay-what-you-can price,” Durbin said. “I also love seeing everyone come in and realize that our produce is organic as well as cheap because we don’t use any pesticides on the farm.” 

These fairly priced crops are soon expanding, as Durbin hinted at some of the future offerings and upcoming plans for the stand. Currently, the table has mostly vegetables, but new additions may be budding soon.

“In terms of future plans for the stand, we have a survey on the table to see if students are interested in berries. I recently helped write a grant for a blackberry and raspberry proposal here at Penn State,” Durbin said. “So we can get that growing hopefully within the next couple of years, and can get some fruit introduced on the farm.” 

The changing temperatures and freezing winters of State College sadly mean the stand can only run during the beginning of the fall semesters. However, even if you didn’t catch the stand this fall, Durbin ensures it will be up and running again for students next year. 

In the meantime, the Student Farm is set to host a variety of upcoming plant-based projects and will continue to provide many opportunities for students to get involved with tackling food insecurity on campus. 

More information regarding the Feed the People market stand and the Student Farm Club can be found here

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About the Author

McKenna Murphy

McKenna is a second-year agricultural science major from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She is a Disney enthusiast, a proud ginger, and an iced coffee addict. You can follow her on Instagram @mckenna.murph or email her at [email protected].

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