Stanford University
Food truck

A La Carte staff Patrick and Johnathan picking up produce donation for distribution. (Photo credit: Allison Bauer)

Farm donates extra produce to soup kitchen during pandemic

Although the farm still sends produce to Lakeside Dinning and Stanford Catering on campus, its main beneficiary is now Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen – a local nonprofit soup kitchen.

BY Amy Bolan
ClockMay 01, 2020

With classes online, demand for produce from campus dining halls has decreased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. Although the farm still sends produce to Lakeside Dining and Stanford Catering on campus, its main beneficiary is now Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen – a local nonprofit soup kitchen.

Will and Allison at the farm
Farmers Allison Bauer, left, and Will Chen with the produce boxes for donation. (Photo credit: Allison Bauer)

In February 2019, Earth Systems and farm alumna Maddy Belin, BS '18, MS'19, created a program to donate the farm’s excess produce to establishments thatserve food to those in need. During the pandemic, that program has grown more than its founder could have anticipated. 

Since April 1, the farm has donated 50 to 70 pounds of produce every week, including baby arugula, Hakurei turnips, French breakfast radishes, baby mustard greens, and beets. After being boxed by a Stanford farmer, it gets picked up by an A La Carte delivery truck – the mobile food recovery program of Loaves & Fishes Family kitchen – and then distributed as to-go meals to low-income families and disadvantaged individuals. The latest produce was delivered to WeHope, a homeless services organization in East Palo Alto.

According to David Hott, director of operations at Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, the farm’s increased produce donations could not have come at a better time.

Requests for our assistance have tripled in the last month and moving to ‘to-go’ distributions from communal meals has spiked our expenses considerably – not just for food, but materials, sanitizing products, and disposable kitchenware,” Hott said.

From classroom to reality

The start of the food donation program traces back to Belin’s undergraduate curriculum – she designed it from scratch during the 2019 Ecological Farm Systems class (EARTHSYS 182A),  a projects-based course taught by farm director Patrick Archie.

Her inspiration for the project came from experience helping campus dining halls and kitchens to reduce food waste, as well as working with the Office of Sustainability to coordinate donations of concession food after sports events. Combining these two concepts at the farm was a no brainer: She wanted to incorporate food waste reduction into the very core of the farm’s operations and push students to think about how they can give back to their community.

In order to harvest extra produce from the fields, Belin coordinated a volunteer opportunity on Wednesday mornings in addition to its Tuesday and Thursday harvesting days. Since she graduated, the student-run farming club, Stanford Roots, has taken over the program. Now that the farm is closed to the public due to the pandemic, Stanford farmers Will Chen and Allison Bauer are keeping it running.

“I think the best part is that is not’s mine, it’s all of ours,” Belin reflected.

To join the expanding network of corporate and academic partners or offer assistance to Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, visit www.loavesfishes.org

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