This project is a partnership between the KUMC Botanical Gardens and the THRIVE Food Pantry with a goal of bringing more fresh produce to our students and campus. The USDA’s Division of Natural Resources Conservation Service has greenlit our campus for a high tunnel greenhouse grant, but we need to the raise the funds for the infrastructure needed: prepping the land, irrigation, electrical, tools, and more.
This project will help to sustain the THRIVE Food Pantry at KUMC, allowing our students to not have to worry about choosing between tuition, books, gas, rent, or food. National studies indicate that anywhere from 30-45% of college students experience some type of food insecurity, which is defined as limited or uncertain ability to get “nutritionally adequate and safe food." Since opening in January of 2020, our pantry has served more than 170 students. Putting that into a campus perspective, 170 students is the equivalent of:
- AN ENTIRE Medicine class
- ONE AND A HALF Nursing classes
- ALL the students enrolled in the Department of Physical Therapy.
During THRIVE’s first year, the KUMC landscaping staff harvested approximately 1200 lbs of produce from the Botanical Gardens, which was provided to students at the food pantry. Having a high tunnel greenhouse will dramatically increase the amount of fresh produce we are able to provide. We have estimated that one high tunnel can take our initial harvest of 1200 lbs and help us produce closer to 5000 lbs! This will not just benefit our students directly but also our campus and surrounding community.
Other Impressive Benefits of High tunnels:
- They are unheated, plastic-covered structures that provide an intermediate level of environmental protection and control compared to open field growing conditions.
- They protect plants from severe weather and allow growers to extend their growing seasons – growing earlier into the spring, later into the fall, and sometimes, year-round.
- They prevent direct rainfall from reaching plants, allowing growers to use precise tools like drip irrigation to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to plants.
- They offer growers a greater ability to control pests and can even protect plants from pollen and pesticide drift.
Perhaps the best thing about high tunnels is that they help growers provide their communities with healthy local food for much of the year – food that requires less energy and transportation inputs – so it’s also great for the Earth!
We are excited about expanding out landscaping efforts to benefit our students and campus and hope that you will support this project!