It takes a village to feed the need in the Mat-Su.

That’s why Alaska Pacific University has teamed up with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension to bring fresh, Alaska-grown produce to people who are less fortunate through a program called Alaska Tilth.

“A lot of stuff that comes into the food pantries tends to be non-perishable so I think it’s nice to have that produce to go along with it,” said Adair Harman, the nutrition educator for the SNAP-ED program.

Harman said this year they’re working with the Wasilla Food Pantry, MyHouse, Frontline Mission, Kids Kupboard and the Palmer Senior Center.

She uses the food for cooking demonstrations to make the produce more approachable.

“I think sometimes people are intimidated on how to cook or prepare things or local things they’re not familiar with. It’s nice to show them it can be really simple and get that healthy food into their hands,” Harman said.

Through the partnership, UAF provides the greenhouses and APU staff farm and harvest the food that will feed hundreds of people.

“We get in here around March. We have over 240 cucumbers in this room alone,” said Rachael Miller, the APU Kellogg Campus manager.

The greenhouses are already filled with dozens of plants and herbs that will soon be transplanted into the fields at the Spring Creek Farm at the Kellogg Campus near Palmer.

“People don’t eat vegetables if they don’t taste good. So what we want to do is grow flavorful, fresh, delicious food,” Miller said.

Farm manager Ben Swimm has been busy plowing and seeding the fields to get the growing season started. He said Alaska Tilth is about more than just food.

“Show people how to do it themselves, how to connect with the piece of land they’re on or the environment they’re in,” Swimm said. "Do good beyond just selling food and trying to make money off of it. To actually provide for people who need it.”

Seniors and families that participate in the WIC program may also be eligible for coupons for produce at WIC-approved farms, farm stands and farmers markets. Harman’s cooking demonstrations typically coincide with the Wasilla’s farmers market so people can shop for produce then learn how to prepare it at home.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify the locations where coupons for produce can be used.

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