The Associated Students Food Pantry started a collaboration with the Fullerton Arboretum to help bring fresh and organic produce to students.
In August 2021, Cal State Fullerton opened its first permanent food pantry for students who are experiencing food insecurity and continues to see an increasing number of students visiting. The food pantry has a partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank and accepts individual donations from people in order to keep their food pantry stocked.
Kristen Johansson, the food pantry’s graduate assistant, told the Daily Titan earlier in the semester about the beginnings of the partnership between the arboretum and the food pantry. Johansson said that produce in the food pantry often went bad before it was distributed. They began looking for environmentally conscious ways to handle the waste and contacted the arboretum.
“We contacted Amy Bulone and Gregory Pongetti over at the arboretum and just requested a meeting to discuss if there's any way that we can use our produce in collaboration with them to see if they did composting on their land,” Johansson said.
Under the new agreement, the food pantry brings over spoiled produce to get composted, and the arboretum provides them with the surplus amount of whatever seasonal fresh produce that they grow and don’t sell through at the gate.
“They come every Thursday, and they bring us their spoiled produce that either students didn't eat or sometimes they just get it from grocery stores and it's already too passed to even try to put on the shelf. So they bring that to our composting operation,” Amy Bulone, the arboretum horticulturist said.
The food pantry’s fresh produce has been a popular hit for the students, Johansson said.
“Students have been very excited about that — seeing that not only is it organic produce that's being offered for free to students, but it's also an effort that we're collaborating with campus departments and seeing that the whole campus is involved both in environmental sustainability and also combating food insecurity on campus, which is really wonderful to see,” Johansson said.
The fruits grown in the arboretum vary depending on the seasons. For the spring, the pantry has been receiving citrus friends and the early rounds of peaches, said Gregory Pongetti, the living collection curator at the arboretum.
“We have all those different sections of the arboretum; the avocados, oranges, general citrus, stone and pome fruit orchards. And then we have what's called the rare fruit orchard, which is a mixture of all kinds of subtropical fruit trees from Asia, and mostly Central America, Central and South America,” Pongetti said.
Ever since the collaboration started, the food pantry has composted a little over 400 pounds of produce with the arboretum. The amount they bring over varies by the week depending on the waste that the pantry produces. The food pantry has received about 430 pounds of harvested fruit since the partnership started on February 24.
Johansson said that she is excited to continue working with the arboretum.
“Learning a lot about the composting process and learning about harvesting and things like that has been quite revolutionary to how we run things here,” Johansson said. “I'm also excited to see how down the line, how this impacts students.”
Students can find more information about volunteering with the arboretum at their website.