The University of Central Arkansas Bear Essentials Food Pantry has received a Campus Care Grant from the National Association of College Auxiliary Services Foundation to expand campus access to fresh foods.

Through a partnership with UCA’s service-learning program, the pantry will construct at least four raised garden beds to grow produce. The grant provides funding for a commercial-grade refrigerator, shelves for starting seeds, grow lights, a seed starting medium, soil and compost, and ServeSafe food handling training. The grant was in the amount of $4,800.

“Since 2014, the goal of the Bear Essentials Food Pantry is to combat food insecurity among the UCA community,” Wendy Holbrook, the UCA assistant vice president of engagement, leadership and service, said. “This grant provides all students with the opportunity to access and consume fresh produce, which we know will benefit their health.”

Garden bed construction begins in June 2022, and students will plant seeds between Aug. 25 and Sept. 15, 2022. The first harvesting takes place between Oct. 15 and Dec. 1, 2022.

Each January, students will begin summer plants indoors while planting winter crops outside. In April, students will transfer the summer plants to the garden beds.

Produce can be harvested in three to four weeks. Each spring and fall semester, classes will maintain the garden beds. Faculty and student volunteers will be responsible for the garden beds each summer.

The pantry reported 2,575 visits in the 2020-21 academic year. Faculty, staff and students currently fund the pantry. Food inventory is limited and consists of non-perishable canned foods and dry goods. The pantry is an affiliate of the Arkansas Food Bank and a member of the College & University Food Bank Alliance.

About NACAS

Founded in 1969 as the National Association of College Auxiliary Services, NACAS is a professional trade association that supports the non-academic segment of higher education responsible for generating business through a diverse array of campus services that students need and value – such as food services, bookstores, housing, and transportation. As the leading organization supporting all campus services, NACAS is the community-of-choice for strategic leaders who advance campus environments to improve the quality of life for students.

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