By Cara Forline
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Filled with loads of free fresh produce, the Atrium of the Connector Building on Camden County College’s Blackwood campus was busy as students attended the Pop-Up Produce Stand. The event had a large turnout, with a steady flow of students throughout the duration of the event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
The event, according to an announcement on the college website, sought to “distribute seasonal fresh produce to supplement your holiday gatherings.” Associate Dean Jackie Tenuto said the event was made possible by The CCC Hunger Free Grant Committee. The grant provided the college with $100,000 for food and security. Another reason the produce stand was created was “to help bolster our three food pantries,” which are on the Blackwood, Camden and Cherry Hill campuses, she stated.
There was enough produce for 300 students, with an additional 150 for the Camden campus. Tenuto said, however, everyone would take different amounts. Some students waited in line for singular items, such as an apple or orange, while a few other students chose an assortment of produce.
Tenuto said instead of “handing out turkeys” for Thanksgiving, offering free, fresh vegetables “serves so many more people.” Types of fresh vegetables and fruits provided included butternut squash, carrots, kale, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, oranges, green beans and apples. Also part of the grant was reusable, insulated bags to store the fresh produce.
The reasoning behind offering a fresh produce stand was that it aimed to allow people to choose what they wanted. One goal was to get students to “experience fresh produce,” Tenuto stated. “Some people may have never even had kale before.”
Camden County College student Nyla Torrez was happily surprised to see the produce stand set up in the Atrium. She described it as “helpful” and a way to meet the “basic needs you need for Thanksgiving.”
All of those helping at the stand were volunteers. The dietetic program at the campus was also there, offering demonstrations on how to cook the produce provided. Stations were set up with students cooking various fresh fruits and vegetables.
As for the turnout, Tenuto was more than satisfied. She said the experience was “very heartfelt and heartwarming to see because people are tasting things they may not have tasted before.” She noted some students planned to share the produce with their families.
There are plans to bring the produce stand back in the spring. In the meantime, Tenuto encouraged students to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if they need help getting food. She said the produce stand and food pantries are “open to everybody, whether or not they think they deserve it.” Tenuto said she will never turn anyone away.
She added, “This grant is allowing us to give to everyone. We’re here to serve students. This is just the start. We’re going to make things even bigger.”