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The RIT FoodShare Center, which offers free food, toiletries and other necessities to students, faculty and staff needing assistance, has seen a nearly 50 percent increase in visitors since its opening in April 2015.
The center recently acquired a freezer and is exploring ways to offer frozen and refrigerated food. And this summer, the center is offering a variety of produce from its 10-foot garden.
“We wanted to add something fresh and healthy,” said Sharon Kompalla-Porter, associate director for Residential Support and Success. “When we first opened, we offered mostly canned goods and non-perishables. We wanted to increase what we could offer.”
The organic garden, planted in front of the FoodShare Center at 113 Kimball Drive, is a sustainable mixture of coconut husk, vermiculite and compost, where peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, squash, zucchini and cucumbers were planted. Harvesting began this summer and will continue through mid-October.
With the assistance of Craig Hauschild, lead grounds mechanic with Housing Operations, and Student Auxiliary Services, the raised bed garden was built in 2016.
The FoodShare concept began to help end food waste while helping students who may be struggling to pay for food. This past academic year, there were 4,526 visits by 706 unique visitors. Ninety percent said they did not have a meal plan at RIT.
The center also recently began offering visitors nutrition information and recipes with the assistance of the Better Me wellness program, giving them healthier options for their meals.
Other than the FoodShare Center, students may also join RIT FoodShare on Facebook, where postings are made of locations of leftover food on campus. The uneaten pizza, sandwiches and more are free for the taking and help students keep fed while preventing food from being wasted. Nearly 2,700 people have joined the Facebook group, up 27 percent this year.
Anyone can donate items to the RIT FoodShare Center at 113 Kimball Drive (hours posted at Facebook.com/RITFoodshare) or by dropping donations in marked containers on campus, including in Campus Center, Crossroads Café and Market and outside the Nathaniel Rochester Hall post office.
If you host an event on campus and have leftover food to share, take a picture and post to their Facebook page and include your location and how long it will be available.
Monetary donations for needed food supplies or garden plants can be made to the RIT FoodShare fund. The FoodShare Center’s greatest need is during the midpoint of each semester when inventory is low.
To learn more about RIT’s FoodShare garden, go to bit.ly/ritgarden.