The Produce Drop provides fresh fruits and vegetables to University of Oregon students facing food insecurity
Every Tuesday afternoon, the EMU Amphitheater is transformed into a miniature farmer’s market. Founded in 2019 and run by the Student Sustainability Center Food Justice team, the Produce Drop provides free produce to any student who self-identifies as earning up to twice the Federal Poverty Level (200 percent FPL). Over the years, as the resource has become known to more students, Produce Drop has seen an increase in visitors not met by an increase in supply.
The above Instagram post was shared by the EMU’s page reading: “The Student Sustainability Center works with Food for Lane County to bring fresh produce to students who need it. The Produce Drops are like a pop-up farmer’s stand, but everything is free to eligible students and their families. There’s no enrollment or sign-up. Just come and fill a bag with what you need. Tuesdays, 3:00–5:00 p.m., in the EMU Amphitheater during fall, winter, and spring terms. 🥕🌽🍅” This post was made to amplify the existence of the resource to any students it could be of benefit to.
Everything provided at Produce Drop is resourced locally and donated by FOOD For Lane County. “It all comes from FOOD For Lane County,” Food Justice Lead at the Sustainability Center, Austin Nunis, said. “They get stuff from local growers, local distributors, grocery stores, sometimes they’ll purchase from grocery stores. All from FOOD For Lane County.”
University of Oregon art and film student Maegan McCoy visits Produce Drop weekly. “I will not have access to vegetables as often without access to the Produce Drop,” McCoy said.
Many college students face food insecurity, University of Oregon students are twice as likely as the national rate to be food insecure. A report conducted during the 2020–21 academic year by the UO Student Wellbeing and Success Initiative found that at UO 22.1 percent of students were food insecure.
The Produce Drop has become to many a vital resource. Over a hundred students visit Produce Drop every Tuesday, many of them regulars. Nunis shared with me how Produce Drop has grown in popularity over the years.
“The sign-in sheets have 30 spots on them, in the fall we would go through about three sheets every week. Now it’s even more than that, it’s like four to five sign-in sheets a week, that’s in addition to the people that do the QR code to sign up,” Nunis said. “So at least a hundred people to more than that every week that stop by Produce Drop. A lot of them are regulars, some people I’m having to explain what it is every week.”
The above photo shows the notice shared to students last week. It reads: “Possible Changes to Produce Drop: Like many food banks around the country, FFLC is experiencing an increase in demand and a decrease in supply. We are working to provide you with produce but wanted to let you know that our supply may be lower than usual. Thank you for your patience and we encourage you to check out other campus food resources, like the Student Food Pantry, in addition to us. Feel free to come to us with any questions!”
This notice was shared to make students aware that Produce Drop may be seeing a dip in supply. The notice also shares other resources available to students facing food insecurity, one being the Student Food Pantry.
“We were just trying to prepare people,” Nunis said. “It’s food banks all over the country, it’s not just isolated to Oregon, or just to us. We are experiencing a lot of need, not a lot of supply right now. That’s just impacting us as well and FOOD for Lane County… This time of year so we’re trying to push it out, but also trying to let people know that ‘hey this is like, may be happening for a couple weeks and here’s a list of other resources and we’re all kind of in this together.’”
Part of the supply dip could account to it being winter. “I think partially that it’s winter just cause not as much is grown in the winter and it’s a produce drop so it’s all perishable items and things like that,” Nuniz said. “There’s just less availability right now when it comes to it being winter, and I think just with an increase in popularity. I’ve just seen a lot more people coming and I think that’s partially need-based, and also just outreach of the program. People are finding out about it, but I think also there’s could be an increased need right now too.”
While there is less supply this term, McCoy still tries to pick up a bell pepper when Produce Drop has them. “I have a bearded dragon named Lucy that loves bell peppers and almost every week the produce drop has them,” McCoy said. “Bell peppers are expensive so I usually get those if they have any. There is more sad or rotten looking produce this term, but I am always impressed by the variety of bread. I try not to take more than I need. I’m glad there is such a great resource for students.”
Produce Drop will continue to be out every Tuesday through the end of Winter term, every week of Spring term and will remain open to all students.