Community program offers produce, delivered on campus

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations | July 09, 2013

Image with caption: Fran Neff delivers bags of produce to the College of Public Health dean’s office.

Fran Neff delivers bags of produce to the College of Public Health dean’s office.

Thursdays are days of plenty in the College of Public Health.

That's the day farm-fresh produce is delivered to about 107 faculty, staff and students on the UNMC campus through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offered by Tomāto Tomäto, an indoor farmer's market in west Omaha.

People seen carrying green bags are taking home any variety of six to eight different fruits and vegetables. They also can order eggs, butter, milk, honey, meat, jams, cheese and bread from the more than 50 vendors and suppliers to the market.

UNMC first participated last fall, with just 32 people eager for farm-fresh produce. Since then, program participation more than tripled.

Robin Jaeckel, COPH administrative associate for associate deans, is organizer and general "mother hen" of the program. Every week, she checks on what produce will arrive and then attaches recipes, freezing and canning instructions to an email notifying everyone when the produce arrives.

If a person is on vacation, they can have someone else pick up their bag, arrange to pick it up at the store or ask the store to donate it to the food bank.

Strange-looking vegetables have shown up in the bags.

"One of the strangest was kohlrabi. It looked like an alien vegetable," Jaeckel said. "Then there was a Hubbard squash. It looked like a green and white basketball, but was orange inside. Turns out it can be substituted for pumpkin in recipes and is very delicious."

Lea Pounds, instructor of health promotion, social and behavioral health, said she enjoys the benefits of a farmer's market without having to drive to one.

"It's very cost effective too, only $20 a week. They bring it here. And I get to try new vegetables. I never had kohlrabi before. Now I love it," Pounds said.

Cindy Mitchell, outreach program associate, international health and medical education, is a first-timer to the program. She said the program, one of eight CSAs in Omaha, isn't what she expected.

"I'm spoiled. I'm used to getting my vegetables clean and washed. But it's great to have it delivered, and the price is good.

Jaeckel is now taking reservations for the 10-week fall session, which begins Sept. 3. There are 10 openings left, but UNMC may get more if there is interest. To reserve a space, email Jaeckel.

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