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Farmers Market Brings Fresh Fruit, Veggies to Campus

May 8, 2007

Photo: bunch of carrots

Fruits and vegetables are more than the subject of research and study at the University of California, Davis. The campus community will be getting a taste of juicy strawberries, tangy cherries and organic vegetables when a farmers market comes to campus for five Wednesdays beginning May 9.

The East Quad Farmers Market is part of a larger pilot project of the Davis Farmers Market Foundation to expand sales of local produce, promote the use of farm-fresh foods in K-12 schools and on the campus, and educate consumers about nutrition and healthful eating.

The pilot project could serve as a model for other universities and their local farmers markets.

The campus farmers market is being launched at the same time that UC Davis' own Foods for Health initiative, an interdisciplinary effort, is addressing issues including nutrition, obesity, the availability of healthy foods, organic farming and industrial food production.

The Student Experimental Farm of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will be among the dozen vendors participating in the market. In addition, Gail Feenstra and Jeri Ohmart of the Davis-based UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program will evaluate the project. And interns from the Cowell Student Health Center's Health Education and Promotion unit on campus will also promote nutrition education with games and prizes during the market.

The farmers market will be held on the east side of the grassy Quad from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Wednesday through June 6. Vendors will sell cherries, strawberries, apples and apple juice, organic vegetables, nuts, olive oil and flowers.

As part of the pilot project, the campus hosted its first farmers markets last fall in tandem with the Campus Community Book Project. The book selection, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," highlights the benefits of eating locally grown food.

Michelle Johnston, health promotion supervisor at the student health center, said the reception was positive and she hopes the longer hours this quarter will draw more students.

A 2005 survey of UC Davis students found that 60 percent eat two or fewer servings of nutrition-packed fruits and vegetables a day.

"One of our goals is to improve the overall nutrition of students," said Johnston. "By increasing access to fresh produce, we hope to make it easier for students to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet."

"We realize that students are pressed for time, so this gives them the opportunity to stop by between classes or during a lunch break to pick up good, fresh produce," she said. "The fresher the food, the better it tastes -- and we all like to eat tasty food."

Randii MacNear, market manager of the Davis Farmers Market, said the campus farmers market is meant to complement the market held downtown on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The larger project is supported by a $40,000 grant to the Davis Farmers Market Foundation under the Farmers Market Promotion Program of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The grant is also helping the Davis Joint Unified School District implement its Wellness Policy by using market produce for meals, snacks and fundraisers.

Sponsors of the campus farmers market in the fall and spring include the ASUCD Coffee House, Cowell Student Health Center's Health Education and Promotion, Sodexho Dining Services, the Office of Campus Community Relations, Davis Food Co-op and the Davis Farmers Market Foundation.

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