Penn Food and Wellness Collaborative launches farm in Penn Park to combat food insecurity
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Penn Meals and Wellness Collaborative launches farm in Penn Park to fight meals insecurity

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Penn Park Farm goals to offer produce for food-insecure Penn college students, workers, and the Philadelphia group.

Credit score: Samantha Turner

The Penn Meals and Wellness Collaborative has began a farm in Penn Park to fight meals insecurity at Penn and in Philadelphia — a problem exacerbated by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic — and enhance wholesome habits on campus.

The Penn Park Farm and its greenhouse, positioned on the southernmost tip of Penn Park, welcomed its first harvest of greater than 300 kilos of chilly climate produce similar to kale, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage in September. After the closure of on-campus housing compelled the collaborative to scratch its preliminary plans to dedicate this semester’s harvest to first-generation, low-income college students at Penn, PFWC coordinator Lila Bhide mentioned the staff determined to donate the produce to the Philadelphia Orchard Venture. 

The Philadelphia Orchard Venture works with community-based teams and volunteers to plant orchards and distribute the produce to meals distribution applications in West Philadelphia. 

PFWC was chosen as one in every of three winners within the “Your Large Concept” problem in April 2019. Jennifer Pinto-Martin, nursing professor and government director of the Middle for Public Well being Initiatives, and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé launched the initiative in February 2019 to assist fund wellness initiatives for the Penn group. The inaugural problem, which garnered 380 submissions from college students, workers, and college, featured two different successful initiatives together with “weekly themed walks” and nature prescriptions to encourage well being suppliers to prescribe time in nature for college students.

PFWC additionally plans to accomplice with Penn Medication for the spring’s harvest and supply produce to Penn Med sufferers and workers, a lot of whom are coping with meals insecurity because of the pandemic, Pinto-Martin mentioned. The Institute for Coverage Analysis at Northwestern College reported in June that meals insecurity has doubled total and tripled amongst households with kids for the reason that on-start of the pandemic in March.

“Meals insecurity is so actual and so pervasive, particularly [during the] COVID [pandemic], as a result of households have a number of of the breadwinners who’ve misplaced their job,” Pinto-Martin mentioned. “It is such a beautiful method for Penn to present again and for college students to become involved in one thing that’s actually significant and essential.”


Credit score: Samantha Turner
August’s harvest included chilly climate crops similar to kale, spinach, and lettuce.

Whereas PFWC had deliberate to begin planting crops on March 15 for a harvest in the summertime, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its timeline by a few months, Pinto-Martin mentioned. By August, PFWC acquired permission to permit employees to begin planting crops whereas carrying masks and adhering to social distancing pointers, Faculty sophomore Megan Zhong and PFWC scholar intern mentioned.

Bhide and Colleges and Actual Property Companies panorama planner Chloe Cerwinka mentioned that they had hoped to broaden the Penn Park Orchard established on the southernmost tip of Penn Park in 2014. Since serving to choose Penn Park Farm as a winner of “Your Large Concept,” Pinto-Martin has overseen the method of digging the plant beds and constructing the greenhouse on the neighboring turf of the Penn Park Orchard.

She attributed the farm’s success to the collaborative effort between FRES, PFWC, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and different campus initiatives just like the Netter Middle for Group Partnerships’ Agatston City Vitamin Initiative.

Zhong started interning with PFWC this summer season and has helped put together the farm for harvest and unfold consciousness of the venture to the Penn group. Zhong, who’s learning public well being and vitamin science, mentioned working with PFWC has made her extra conscious of the challenges in operating an city farm like selecting which crops would be capable to thrive in colder climate.

“I feel this program is an efficient intersection between addressing the well being and wellbeing of the West Philadelphia group, together with the FGLI college students at Penn, and likewise adjusting vitamin and accessing good high quality produce,” Zhong mentioned.

As soon as in-person courses resume, Bhide mentioned she hopes the farm may also be a spot the place professors can educate college students about meals programs and conduct hands-on labs. PFWC additionally hopes the farm will assist college students destress and prioritize bodily and psychological wellness after they return to campus, she added.

“It is such a excessive stress time to be a scholar, particularly at such a rigorous college like Penn,” Bhide mentioned. “I feel there’s a lot therapeutic worth in being outside and dealing with the land.”

Cerwinka mentioned it has been “unbelievable” to observe the farm evolve from an concept to a actuality.

“We had this dream for therefore a few years, however we simply did not actually know if it could ever occur, as a result of it wasn’t one thing we might have completed on our personal,” she mentioned. “It actually took a robust partnership to make it occur.”