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The City Journals

Fellowship awarded to environmentally passionate student

May 08, 2018 12:35PM ● By Jet Burnham

The Bruin Pantry now provides food to twenty times the amount of people who were served before Alex Farmer took over the project. (Jet Burnham\City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Salt Lake Community College student Alex Farmer was awarded a Newman Civic Fellowship, a one-year fellowship for community-committed college students.

“Alex epitomizes what it means to be a civically engaged scholar in her personal and academic life,” said SLCC President Deneece Huftalin.

Farmer has worked at the Redwood campus Thayne Center for three years and has been actively involved in Student Leaders in Civic Engagement, (SLiCE), a student-run service program. She has implemented several sustainability initiatives, including bike repair stations to encourage a cycling friendly campus and a composting to reduce food waste campuswide. She has also lent her passion and hard work to the campus’ community garden and to Earth Day programming.

“I love writing proposals,” said Farmer. “For a lot of the projects I’ve done, I just starting writing a proposal of why the school should have it.” Her projects have had a big impact on campus.

“She was identified by [Huftalin] for the fellowship, which speaks volumes to the type of work Alex is doing on our campus,” said Rebecca VanMaren, Community Partnerships coordinator at the Thayne Center.

Farmer first became environmentally aware while living in Nepal.

“As I became more aware of the world through my travels, I began to discover my passions working with local communities and their environments,” she said. “I learned about community in Nepal, and then I came here and found the Thayne Center.”

With the support of the Thayne Center, she believes she can accomplish anything she sets out to do. 

“Having a good support system and finding others that are passionate about the same things you are can make things happen,” said Farmer.

One of the biggest impacts Farmer has made at SLCC is revitalizing the Bruin Pantry. Farmer is credited with the dramatic increase of students, faculty, staff and their families receiving food and clothing from the student-run pantry.

When the Bruin Pantry reopened in the Thayne Center last September, they were serving 134 total community members. Farmer worked to create community awareness of the pantry and to cultivate its resources. By January, the pantry was serving 1,788 Bruins and by February the total was up to 2,645.

“She has created relationships with people who come into the pantry so they feel safe,” said Emily Jessop, who works in the Thayne Center. “She’s really created a comfortable environment for SLCC students to access the resources they need." 

Farmer has also established partnerships with the Utah Food Bank and the Grocery Rescue Program to provide a variety of fresh food options.

“We’ve been trying to get a diverse range of nutritional foods, so I think that has been drawing in a lot of people,” said Farmer.

Where she once handled the bulk of the work herself, Farmer has been able to amass a volunteer force to keep up with the increased demand.

“Alex has made an incredible difference in the lives of our Salt Lake Community College students who are experiencing food insecurity and hunger,” said Huftalin. “She worked to build and strengthen our Bruin Pantry, has created a sustainable volunteer force to help staff it and continues to find ways to develop partnerships with external groups to provide fresh produce and healthy meal options for our students.”

Farmer’s final touch before she graduates this May is a colorful mural she is painting in the Bruin Pantry.

The 26-year-old Washington state native will graduate from SLCC with a degree in Geospatial Technology. She hopes to join the Environmental Law program at Westminster College and get involved making improvements on their campus.

“I guess I’ll just start over and see what I can do to start projects for what they may need,” she said.

Famer is honored to receive the fellowship, which will provide a mentor and connect her with like-minded people.

“The network is where the real value for me is,” said Farmer. “It will be awesome to be connected with others around the country that are doing similar projects.”

Other 2018 Utah Newman Fellowship recipients are Aimee Urbina of Weber State University and Teresa Bagdasarova of Westminster College.