Building close ties between Miami University and the Oxford community, the Miami University Farm offers a portion of its crops to the Oxford Community Choice Pantry. The pantry makes the produce easily accessible for free to local residents in need. During summer and fall seasons, the Institute donates to the pantry almost every week. The donations include berries, cabbages, peppers, squashes, and tomatoes among other produce. The director of the pantry, Mr. Bob Ratterman says that “the community loves the local produce – you can tell by their faces.”
The Institute for Food and the Oxford Community Choice Pantry (OCCP) work well together because their missions align. The Institute for Food seeks to foster innovative solutions that support healthy eating, healthy communities, and a healthy planet.The philosophy of the OCCP is to empower its customers by honoring their dignity and giving them responsibility for their food choices. The pantry emphasizes the selection of healthy food options while providing nutritional information.
The Oxford Community Choice Pantry began its service in 2007, with help from the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary’s, and the Family Resource Center in Oxford. The service of the pantry extends its arms out to those residing in both the Oxford community and Talawanda School District.
The Oxford Choice Pantry respects patrons as individuals and offers them a selection of items to choose from in order to meet their household’s specific needs. The pantry offers an organized space, similar to that of a grocery store, for visitors to make decisions with help from a volunteer shopping assistant. An average of 60 Miami University students volunteer throughout the year, says Mr. Bob Ratterman, director of the food pantry.
Oxford residents, student organizations, and local stores, donate an average of 70,000 pounds of food per year.Non-perishables make up a large majority of this food. though, local farmers (including the Miami University Farm) make an effort to supply fresh fruits and vegetables as the seasons allow.
Voices of Oxford’s community speak about the importance of having fresh, local produce available at the Oxford Community Choice Pantry. Jessica, a patron of the pantry and Miami University student, says:
“This is a real situation where you’re trying to do the best you can. You have upper-middle class people who want to tell you not to buy TV dinners and cheap foods with their tax money – wanting your family to eat healthy, organic produce and spend time making dinner. It brings a lot of stereotyping about people in poverty. Me, personally, I didn’t grow up in a household with many vegetables at all. My kids, however are helping me break that cycle, so it’s a good thing that there are fresh produce options at the pantry if my food assistance runs out before the end of the month.”
The Institute for Food is excited to provide fresh produce to pantry clients like Jessica, and we look forward to increasing our donations to the Pantry as our farm production expands in the coming years.