Vegetables and fruit at a farmers market

Farmers market April 29 aims to ease food insecurity among graduate students

April 25, 2023
By: Nancy Sheehan

Free fresh, healthy food will be available at a farmers market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 29 in the Blue Lounge in the Student Center at Worcester State. Originally slated for the Student Center lot, the event has been moved indoors because of a forecast for rainy weather.

The event is being sponsored by the Graduate Office, the Graduate Student Association, and the Worcester State Alumni Association. “It primarily targets graduate students, but any students who feel like getting some food will be welcome,” Alda Ushe, M.S. ’23, event co-chair, said. “By free farmers market, we mean free food, and that will include veggies, fruits, canned food, and baked goods.”

Ushe and co-chair Victoria Porteiro-Cejas, M.P.A.P. ’23, said the reason they decided to create this event is because of the unsettling results of a 2017 survey conducted by CityLab at Worcester State. The survey was based on a sample of 682 undergraduate and graduate students and analyzed the prevalence of food and housing insecurity at the university.  The data showed that a third of our students struggle with hunger.

The survey revealed that:

  •   27 percent of students couldn’t afford to eat a balanced meal. 
  •   25 percent of students indicated that the food they bought just didn’t last for as long as they needed.
  •   34 percent of students indicated that they have low to very low food security due to a lack of food or access to food. 

Recent cuts have been made to pandemic-era federal food assistance programs such as SNAP. If a post-pandemic survey were conducted, the number of food-insecure students would likely increase, the event co-chairs said. 

“We hope this event will provide at least temporary relief for graduate or struggling students experiencing food insecurity by offering them

fresh produce,” Ushe said. “It also offers a great opportunity to build community and increase student engagement.” Chartwell’s, the University’s food service provider, assisted in obtaining food items for the event, she said.

There also will be music, games, and a raffle available to graduate students with four gift cards as prizes.

The event is being funded by grants from the Alumni Association’s Advisory Board annual grants and the Graduate Office. “Alda and I wanted to use the grant funds to make a real impact on the lives of our classmates,” Porteiro-Cejas said. “Money is tight for most, and we know helping to put food on their table and, for the raffle winners, money in their pocket will ensure the basic needs of our classmates are met, even if it’s just one day. That’s one day they can focus on their studies instead of their stomachs.” 

The organizers ask that students bring bags or containers to the market to reduce waste and promote sustainable living practices.

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