Students in the new HORT 331X Hydroponic Food Crop Production course at Iowa State University are producing more food than they can eat, and needed to solve a problem: “What do we do with all of this lettuce?”
The course, taught by Dr. Christopher Currey, focuses on principles and practices of hydroponic systems, crop production and culture, aquaponic systems and new food crops for hydroponic systems. Laboratories focus on demonstration and participation in practices and procedures used in hydroponic food crop production.
But beyond the academic-speak, it’s also an opportunity for students to learn about food insecurity, Currey says. Even in a college town like Ames, Ia., there are people struggling to put food on the table, he says. So the students donate the vegetables they produce to Food At First, a local perishable food pantry and free meal program.
The weekly lettuce program alone produces 180 heads of lettuce per week, and the course also grows an abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers. The students see their crops all the way through by volunteering to either prepare or serve a meal in Food At First’s kitchen or help distribute food from their food banks.
“The students in the class are proud to be contributing to a solution to a problem in the community,” Currey says. “They take pride in not only their work, but their ability to lend a helping hand.”