Campus Kindness: Rice garden donating produce to local food pantry

Campus Kindness is a series of features on Rice Owls contributing to the fight against COVID-19. Read more here.

Volunteers in the Rice on-campus garden have made sure its produce is going to good use during the pandemic. (Photos by Jeff Fitlow)

Volunteers in the Rice on-campus garden make sure its produce is going to good use during the pandemic. (Photos by Jeff Fitlow)

With campus closed, the Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden that normally provides fresh produce for Rice serveries has been donating its fruit, vegetable and herb harvests to a local food pantry providing meals and groceries during the pandemic.

With lines of cars stretching for miles at food banks across the nation as more Americans experience food insecurity, it’s much-needed assistance at a time when every little bit helps.

Garden manager Joe Novak has been dropping off each harvest at a local food pantry.

Garden manager Joe Novak has been dropping off each harvest at a local food pantry.

“A number of the garden’s volunteers reached out to me and asked what they could do during this period to help get the garden through,” said garden manager and agriculture professor Joe Novak.

This small group of 12 volunteers has been helping harvest since mid-April, with only a handful in the garden at the same time.

“We practice safety through physical distancing and protective face masks and gloves to the extent possible,” Novak said. Dropping off each haul at the food pantry, he said, is equally convenient and safe.

Novak knew he wanted the produce to be put to good use somewhere in Houston if it couldn’t be used by Rice, so he asked his volunteers to suggest a program. They quickly put him in touch with St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

The church uses the produce in two ways, Novak said: “first in the church program on preparing and serving hot meals to children in need, and second is that extra produce is offered through their food pantry to anyone in need.”

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.