The Farm to Fork project: Community-engaged scholarship from community partners' perspective

Monika Korzun, Corey Alexander, Lee-Jay Cluskey-Belanger, Danielle Fudger, Lisa Needham, Kate Vsetula, Danny Williamson, Daniel Gillis


Abstract

Higher education institutions have traditionally largely ignored their role in identifying and addressing issues that their communities face. In an attempt to tackle this situation, models such as community-engaged scholarship (CES) have been developed and used to illustrate the active roles higher education institutions can play in sustainable social change. CES is guided by principles of mutually beneficial collaboration and reciprocity to address issues faced by the community. CES can guide the development of an in-depth understanding of social issues and can promote long-term and sustainable solutions. CES literature focuses largely on the impacts and benefits to students and faculty, but often ignores assessment of CES projects based on their impact on community partners and the community overall.

This article illustrates the experiences of community partners in a Farm To Fork project and the impact of the project on community partners and the community at large. Developed at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, the Farm To Fork project is helping increase the quantity and quality of food donated to emergency food providers, such as food banks and food pantries, via the use of online tools. Based on a survey questionnaire, the experiences of community partners are summarised under four categories: mutual benefit, resources, networking and collaborations, and raising awareness and addressing social issues. The results demonstrate that community partners greatly appreciate the effort and dedication of students and faculty. Through the project, community partners gained experience and access to university resources and formed networks with academics as well as other community organisations that will benefit them in the future. In addition, the Farm To Fork project helped to raise awareness about food insecurity, not only among students and faculty working on the project, but also in the Guelph-Wellington area.

Keywords: community-engaged scholarship, food insecurity, community impacts, Farm To Fork, Guelph-Wellington

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