By Rose Laudicina
When nonprofits collaborate, it typically results in increased services for those the organizations serve, and the collaboration of Farmer Foodshare and Student U is no exception, resulting in fresh local food, served three times a week, to about 240 kids in Durham.
The collaboration spans county lines, with Orange Countyâ€™s Farmer Foodshare and Durhamâ€™s Student U bringing together two separate mission statements to give students at Student U new food experiences and educational opportunities.
â€œWe are different organizations with different end goals,â€ Student U founder and executive director Dan Kimberg said. â€œBut we both believe in making sure children have good healthy choices.â€
Student U is a nonprofit organization that works with sixth- through eleventh-graders from the Durham Public Schools to help them advance academically while teaching them to become leaders and take charge of their own educational experiences. While the kids involved in the program get year-round support and encouragement, during the summer students come together at Durham Academy to learn for six weeks.
While the students learn from teachers in the classroom, this year with the help of Farmer Foodshare and its Pennies on the Pound (POP) Food Market, they are also learning from what they eat at snack time.
â€œA part of our larger initiative is a full health and wellness initiative,â€ Kimberg said. â€œWe have a big focus on health and wellness.â€
Farmer Foodshare also has a major focus on health and wellness and promoting a healthy lifestyle through local farm-fresh foods.
â€œFarmer Foodshareâ€™s whole reason for being is the idea that it is possible to increase access to fresh food,â€ Farmer Foodshare founder and executive director Margaret Gifford said.
Farmer Foodshare has multiple programs to help spread access to farm-fresh food, including donation stations, perhaps their most recognizable program, and POP market, which is how they collaborate with Student U.
Through donation stations set up at 13 different farmersâ€™ markets across North Carolina, including Carrboroâ€™s and Durhamâ€™s, farmers and market attendees can donate fresh food that is then donated to people with, or agencies serving, â€œurgent hunger.â€
Through POP Food Market, run by Lizzy Martin, nonprofit organizations like Student U can order food and POP will work out a price that is agreeable to both the farmers and the nonprofit.
â€œI was motivated a lot by the concept or idea that there should be farm-to-fork for everyone,â€ Gifford said of her reasons for founding Farmer Foodshare. â€œLocal food should not be a province of only certain members of the community.â€
Eating and learning
In working with Student U through the POP Food Market, Gifford is able to extend the availability of farm-fresh foods to students, while Kimberg is able to use it as an educational opportunity.
â€œIt is a good partnership because the kids are exposed to new types of food, where it comes from and are able to visit a farm and learn about farming,â€ Kimberg said.
â€œIt goes beyond just eating; it is eating plus and education,â€ he added.
While the adults behind the partnership enjoy seeing their hard work come together, it is the students who are enjoying the fruits of their labor â€“ literally.
One of the foods the students have enjoyed the most are blackberries, which are being supplied through POP from John Vollmer, a farmer at the Durham Farmersâ€™ Market.
Kimberg said the majority of the kids had never had a blackberry before, but they were a huge hit.
But cherry tomatoes didnâ€™t go over quite as well.
â€œMany [of the students] didnâ€™t like the idea of a tomato,â€ Kimberg said. â€œOur teachers did a good idea of convincing them to at least try one.â€
While the kids enjoy the farm-fresh snacks, they also receive information sheets on the food and where it came from, and at the end of the summer each student receives a cookbook filled with recipes.
â€œIf our students just eat good snacks for six weeks and forget about it, we wonâ€™t feel that the partnership is working, so we want to make sure they remember and take something away from the experience,â€ Kimberg said.
The recipes, created by Jenny Elander, a former Farmer Foodshare volunteer and current Student U employee, are simple enough for the students to try at home so they can continue to experience new foods and share those experiences with their family and friends.
â€œNonprofits for the most part are a limited-resource organization, and yet they do an immense amount of good and reach so many people with their services,â€ Gifford said.
â€œWhat is exciting about working with Student U and the POP market is to broaden the idea and reach the next range of people that could be and should be participating in local food economy.â€