Cal Poly boasts one of the most hands-on animal science and agriculture programs in the nation, and if you wait for the wind to pick up in the right direction, you might just smell it.
Even with all of these “Cal Poly Made” food products that are seen and talked about on campus, the Real Food Collaborative (RFC) said students still feel they don’t have enough access to fresh food.
The RFC is a student group working to bring healthy, local, sustainable and ethically-sourced food to Cal Poly and the San Luis Obispo community.
The RFC is working to increase access to fresh food with the creation of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, or “veggie” boxes.
Real Food Collaborative President and political science senior Abby Ahlgrim received her first veggie box last week and was fascinated by the produce, some of which she had never tried.
“I had no idea acorn squash was so magical,” Ahlgrim said.
The RFC had the idea for CSA boxes about a year ago. They began as a student group that promoted healthy food on campus and held events to educate students on how to be aware of where their food comes from. They even began a co-op that lasted a few months until larger enterprises like the veggie boxes became a priority.
This year, the RFC partnered with the Cal Poly Organic Farm to produce bi-weekly fruit and vegetable boxes.
“It’s the best CSA deal in SLO,” Ahlgrim said.
According to Ahlgrim, RFC buys wholesale from the Cal Poly Organic Farm. For the ten-week quarter, five veggie boxes can be purchased for $100. Each box contains eight to twelve units, along with a newsletter and recipes related to the fruits and vegetables in the box.
A box would contain whatever is in season at the time, such as a bushel of carrots, a head of broccoli or in Ahlgrim’s case, an acorn squash.
Agricultural and environmental plant science (AEPS) senior Kristen Fernandez works as an enterprise student at the Organic Farm Stand. She said she enjoys the opportunity to learn about growing obscure produce, like acorn squash, organically.
“I get to learn about a lot of different crops,” Fernandez said. “Whereas, if you go into the industry, you’d be focused on only a few main crops.”
Along with selling wholesale to the RFC, the Organic Farm is a student-led enterprise that teaches AEPS students about producing fruits and vegetables organically and selling them to the greater San Luis Obispo community.
“This is what we learn, then grow and then get to eat,” Fernandez said.
Educating students about food is the overarching initiative at the RFC. This goal is reflected in their partnership with the Cal Poly Organic Farm. The Organic Farm grows their produce on campus without chemicals.
“You know exactly where your food’s coming from,” RFC member and nutrition junior Belle Roberts said.
In the coming year, Ahlgrim hopes to further education opportunities for students through the distribution of the fruit and veggie boxes. They’ve added a newsletter and recipes to each box so students know more about where their produce is coming from and cooking options.
Roberts also agreed that education is the key to bringing more sustainable options to students.
“I think nutrition education is not as widely available as it should be,” Roberts said. “People should know what’s good for their body and what it means to know where their your food comes from.”
The RFC Facebook page provides directions to request a veggie box. After requesting an order, the distribution of the veggie boxes happens every Wednesday on Dexter Lawn from 3:15 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.
“Everyone loves their veggie boxes,” Ahlgrim said. “It is such a sweet, heart-warming aspect of the real food community we are building on campus.”