No cash? No problem. For the first time, students can utilize their meal plans to buy fresh and local produce from the farmers market on campus.
Meal plan holders can exchange their swipes for vouchers they can use at the East Quad Farmers Market at a rate of $2.50 per swipe. Vouchers are available at the EQFM, Trudy’s, the Junction and the residence dining commons.
“We see this program as an educational opportunity for students to use their swipes to vote to support our local farms,” said Dani Lee, sustainability manager for University Dining Services at UC Davis.
Since the beginnings of the EQFM in 2007, the idea of a voucher program has been circulating. Implementing the program, however, took a while to coordinate.
“When the Farmers Market started we didn’t have many resources,” Lee said. “It took manpower, time and energy to sit down and develop the program and make sure that it was implemented smoothly and correctly so students could get the best value out of it.”
Lee hopes that increasing student access to local produce will help create longer lasting habits, especially for first-year students and meal plan holders.
“When they leave us at the end of the year and move on to apartments and houses, hopefully they will continue to shop at the local farmers market to get nutritious, fresh and local produce,” she said.
The program also hopes to increase the amount of sales for the local growers who come to the market and in turn strengthen the local economy.
During the first week of spring quarter, University Dining Services sold about six vouchers, Lee said. Last week, the number bumped up to over 40 swipes worth of vouchers.
“We’re hoping to see it increase even more, and have more and more first-year students and meal plan holders become aware of the program,” she said.
Some students feel the exchange rate is too low for the voucher program to be successful.
Megan Barlow, a first-year chemistry major, was unaware of the voucher program’s existence, but doesn’t plan to utilize it.
“I don’t think I’d use it because a swipe [in the dining hall] is worth so much more than $2.50,” she said.
Sarasa Kim, a first-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, was familiar with the program but also does not plan to partake in it due to the exchange rate.
“I would rather use cash at the market and keep my swipes,” she said.
While technically the voucher program is a pilot program, University Dining Services fully intends to continue it in the fall, Lee said.
Brenan Connolly, general manager of resident dining, Randii MacNear, market manager of the Davis Farmers Market, Student Health Services and the University Dining Services department of sustainability and nutrition were all involved in making the voucher program possible.
JANELLE BITKER can be reached at email@example.com.