On several dates this summer between June 22 and September 1, Dig In! Campus Agriculture and Trinity Food Systems Lab (TFSL) hosted a farmer’s stand together in front of Sidney Smith. The events aimed to promote sustainable farming at U of T and offered free produce, including kale, radishes, beans, and seeds from student-run gardens. Dig In! plans to continue hosting the stand every Thursday until the end of October, weather permitting.

Dig in!

Dig In! —  a student group devoted to providing sustainable food production across U of T — collaborated with TFSL — a research hub that’s part of the Sustainability Initiative of Trinity College — to raise awareness of agricultural issues and empower local farming projects.

Mrinmayee Sengupta, who is a recent U of T graduate and one of the co-coordinators of Dig In!, spoke to The Varsity about the stand’s beginning. “Last year we had a lot of beans and tomatoes… and we always used to be like, well, it would be so great if we could give this away to people,” she said.

Nadia Gericke —  a student in environmental science and anthropology going into her fifth year and another co-coordinator of Dig In! — wrote in an email to The Varsity, “We thought that instead of asking people to come to us for the food, we would dedicate a time to bring it to them.”

Fresh and free produce

U of T has faced criticism for a lack of affordable meal plans on campus, and with high inflation rates, the university has also seen an increased demand for food centres across all three campuses. 

Gericke wrote to The Varsity that the university “still fails to provide students with good, accessible food; students either do not feel they can afford it or if they can, are often unhappy with the food they are given.” 

Sengupta also said the university is not taking sufficient measures to promote sustainability on campus. “Food is such an easy way to be involved in sustainability… I don’t see much of that happening,” she said.

The organizers of Dig In! say the stand exposes the need for more work to be done. “The root cause of food insecurity is economic inequity. While free/accessible food can help those who are experiencing economic struggles, it will always be a band aid solution,” wrote Gericke.In a statement to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson provided information about financial resources available for students, such as the University of Toronto Advanced Planning for Students (UTAPS) program and emergency grants, as well as food options at UTSG, UTSC and UTM.