Greens to Grounds offers new dining options

Student group provides access to locally grown produce

nsgreenscourtesychrisporter

Greens to Grounds holds box pick-ups for students every Friday at Mad Bowl. 

Courtesy Chris Porter

Look no further for your fresh foods, U.Va. This fall, Greens to Grounds is making healthy, organic products even more accessible and affordable.

A student-run community-supported agriculture organization, Greens to Grounds provides the University and Charlottesville community with fruits and veggies, along with other locally sourced products. Starting this year, students with meal plans can purchase Greens to Grounds boxes of these healthy foods with plus dollars.

“U.Va. Dining has really shown our organization a lot of love and support over the years, and we’re excited that this new partnership will give meal plan students even more opportunities to explore local and sustainable food,” Chris Porter, a fourth-year College student and Greens to Grounds co-chair, said.

Porter said in previous years many Greens to Grounds customers have been of the upperclassmen, off-Grounds, non-meal-plan demographic. However, moving forward, the organization hopes to show that eating local can work for everyone.

“[The agreement with U.Va. Dining was] actually surprisingly simple,” third-year College student Allie Arnold, who was involved in getting the plus dollars program off the ground, said. “We [met] around the end of spring and we talked about … our demands and how much we can provide, what our capacity is like, what our model is like and just how feasible it would be."

Partnering up with dining halls has been a dream of Greens to Grounds members since the spring of 2015.

"Now that it is actually being initiated, it is crazy exciting," Anna Dorsey, a fourth-year College student and the group’s marketing chair, said.

Greens to Grounds boxes start at $10 each, with add-ons available for purchase. While in the past students have normally used plus dollars for dumplings, pizza and other specialty foods, through this agreement they now have more affordable and healthy dining choices.

The organization seeks to inspire students and other members of the community to pay attention to and care about where their food comes from.

“How we feed ourselves on a daily basis is … one of the most important decisions we make,” Porter said. “As I think people are becoming increasingly aware, our food choices have not just nutritional, but economic, environmental, political and social ramifications.”

Porter emphasized the opportunity to build relationships with local food producers, making food all the more meaningful.

“The farmers we source from are people you can actually meet, talk to about their practices and their story at the City Market, and whose properties are close enough that you could go visit them,” Porter said. “A lot of the farms we work with are small … [and] that means it might be difficult if not impossible for them to connect with a market like college students who, honestly, are not always motivated enough to go beyond the dining hall or the shelves at Kroger in search of good food.”

Greens to Grounds intends to fill that void and serve as a connecting organization for students interested in, yet perhaps not knowledgeable about local food and farmers without access to the student market.

In addition to selling food, Greens to Grounds’ mission has an educational aspect. The group’s fall plans include relevant film screenings and cooking classes to encourage others to think locally.

"A challenge we have faced in the past is getting people out of their easy meal comfort zones, and inspired to buy a box with more nutritious ingredients from the local area," Dorsey said. "We have adapted our marketing plan to show students that they don’t need a five-star kitchen to use our boxes … [because] eating local is just as easy as it is tasty."

Arnold said the organization sets an example for colleges everywhere for a broader local food movement and the sustainable agriculture movement in the United States.

“If you care about how your food is grown, [it’s] a more affordable, accessible option,” Arnold said. “I think it’s a win-win for everyone, for the community, for students [and] for farmers.”

Produce and snack boxes will be available weekly, via online pre-order and subsequent pick-up at Mad Bowl on Friday afternoons.

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