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Central Washington University

Food Donations from The Farm, CWU Dining Services Help People in Need

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Central Washington University Dining Services and the Wildcat Neighborhood Farm have taken steps this fall to help people on campus and in the community who are experiencing food insecurity.

Since early September, excess grab-and-go meals from Dining Services and surplus produce from The Farm have been donated to PUSH Pantries on the Ellensburg campus to assist students in need. The Farm also donated its overstock produce to local food banks during the summer, when no students were living on campus.

“We are here to support Dining and academics, but we are also here to support the community we live in,” said Kate Doughty, CWU’s farm and sustainability manager. “From my perspective, bringing produce to the food pantries is just part of our normal operations. We’re not doing it out of necessity; it’s included in what we’re doing.”

Doughty estimates that The Farm donated about 900 pounds of food to all of the food pantries in Ellensburg, including PUSH, during the 2020 growing season. The PUSH Pantries program is coordinated by CWU student organizations, who stock shelves (and two full-size refrigerators) across campus with donations from students, faculty, and staff. The Farm offers support whenever it can.

“Now that the students are back, we have shifted our focus to PUSH to make sure they have everything they need,” Doughty said. “The students like being able to find fresh produce now, and everything we bring them goes super-quickly.” 

CWU Dining Services has taken a similar approach. Instead of allowing freshly prepared grab-and-go meals to go to waste after the standard three-day shelf life, Dining has been donating leftover entrees, salads, breakfast sandwiches, and more to PUSH.

“The food is still perfectly good to eat a couple days after the peak freshness date,” said Campus Executive Chef Joe Ritchie, adding that most grab-and-go items don’t include ingredients from The Farm. “But we don’t want to charge people full price, so we’ve been able to reallocate those items and offer them to people who need them.”

Dining Services will continue to use produce harvested from The Farm for the next couple of months. Vegetables that store well — such as carrots, beets, and squash — will be incorporated into the menu, while the rest of the harvest (tomatoes, peppers, salad greens, etc.) has already been consumed, donated, or composted. 

“One thing we learned this year was that we need to focus on produce that stores well,” Ritchie said. “The peak growing season is in the summer, and we don’t have as much business during that time. That means we’re going to need more crops that will last into the fall and winter.”

Plans for next year’s growing season at The Farm are moving ahead cautiously due to an uncertain future. But no matter what happens, The Farm and Dining Services will continue to do their part to provide food to people in need.

“Whether we’re taking produce to PUSH or the community food pantries, we plan to be more intentional about it next year,” Doughty said. “We’re going to organize things better on our end so the organizations that need regular donations can get them when they need them.”

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu, 509-963-1518.

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