The veggie box program by Cal Poly’s student-run Real Food Collaborative (RFC) was recently selected to receive a grant through the Greenhouse Initiative, allowing the on-campus organization to expand their outreach capabilities and improve the program’s ability to provide students with local, sustainable and ethically-sourced food.
The RFC works with Cal Poly Organic Farm to provide veggie boxes to the Cal Poly community. Each veggie box contains eight to 12 different in-season vegetables and are passed out Wednesdays on Dexter Lawn. They are subscription-based and can be purchased at $100 per quarter.
The club retains approximately 30 percent of the profit from veggie box sales. There are about 45 people subscribed and students have the option to choose one of the two different rotations.
“Us, along with three other student groups across the country won positions,” RFC president and political science senior Abby Ahlgrim said. “There were dozens of people that applied including other student groups at Cal Poly and we’re super, super honored and stoked and proud to be one of the winners.”
The Greenhouse Initiative launched its inaugural program last fall. Sponsored by the nonprofit The Ecology Center and organic drink company Sambazon, the program includes the $4,000 grant and a semester-long mentorship.
Ahlgrim and the RFC are now working closely with The Ecology Center to use the grant to develop the veggie box program into a full-fledged business.
“Right now we’re in idea phases talking about separating this business with the Real Food Collaborative … Our business is already something we’ve started but we’ve been looking for avenues to expand and have it be something that’s more permanent at Cal Poly,” Ahlgrim said. “Now we’ve been in communication with the Ecology Center and working with them to develop a team within the Real Food Collaborative who are working on this business.”
For Ahlgrim, the success of the veggie box program will rely on consistency. For agricultural and environmental plant sciences junior and co-founder of the veggie box program Jon Skrbina, growth must come sooner rather than later.
“In the club, we’ve been working on growing the program, getting more subscribers and we’ve been brainstorming ways to institutionalize it, to get this to last when most of us have graduated,” Skrbina said. “Of course, the money will also help with capital funds, whatever infrastructure we need.”
Skrbina said solidifying the veggie box program at Cal Poly will start with increasing student interest and subscribers to the service.
“We definitely want to build a sign and try to advertise better, create some tote bags and advertise our logo and Cal Poly Organic Farms’s logo,” Skrbina said. “We definitely want to get more people to recognize the great work the Organic Farm is doing.”
In the meantime, the members of the RFC and those working on the grant said they are excited. Nutrition freshman and RFC member Courtney Talbott is also working on the grant.
“We’re excited for the general expansion of this awesome program and really working with this club to bring a huge community of people together who are really focused on sustainable, ethical food,” Talbott said.