The Beet Box has replaced the SIUE Goshen Farmers Market as a means to provide students with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The SIUE Goshen Farmers Market first came to campus in Fall 2017 and was supported by the Food Sustainability Consortium, a collaboration between faculty in multiple departments — including English, sociology, applied health and more — as well as the Kimmel Student Involvement Center and the Goshen Market Foundation.
The market made its last appearance on campus in Spring 2019. According to Jessica DeSpain, an English professor and the president of the Goshen Market Foundation, many factors contributed to the decision to no longer bring the market to campus. One of the biggest challenges was finding the right time to hold the markets.
“When you start farmers markets, you have to have a ‘show up and hope other people will show up’ attitude,” DeSpain said. “It takes a long time to establish that, and it was really hard to find the right time when students would be on the [Stratton Quadrangle] naturally and then also have time to get vegetables or whatever it was to their cars, and same thing with faculty.”
Another obstacle was inconsistent student turnout, which gradually drove local farmers away from the project, according to DeSpain.
“We would have days when it would be great — there would be a lot of students and they’d be really excited — and then days when it wouldn’t be,” DeSpain said. “It was hard for [vendors] to devote the time if they didn’t know it was going to be profitable, so slowly over time we started to lose a lot of farmers.”
At the same time, the Beet Box (or Market on Wheels) was established in Spring 2018 to provide nutritious foods to areas with little to no access to healthy produce. The Beet Box previously only stopped in Cougar Village, but starting in Fall 2019, it came to the Quad. According to DeSpain, the Beet Box was a way to continue serving students with a smaller operation.
“The thing about the Beet Box that is nice is you don’t have to rely on other people,” DeSpain said. “It’s us with the vegetables, so that was just a much easier way for us to handle it. So that was our solution to still serve campus.”
According to Jennifer Zuercher, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health, the biggest advantage to having the Beet Box on campus is its accessibility.
“[The Beet Box] makes it a really convenient way for people to get fresh produce,” Zuercher said. “It’s great for students that live on campus or in Cougar Village, as well as for faculty and staff.”
Taylor Hoeg, a senior nutrition major from Rockford, Illinois, and the current president of the Food and Nutrition Club, said she has been to the Beet Box a couple times and thinks it is a good addition to campus.
“It’s always great to see a way to give nutritious foods cheaply to college students because food is so expensive for college students,” Hoeg said. “That’s part of the reason why you hear the stereotype of college students just eating ramen, but really, your brain can’t function well without having nutritious foods.”
Due to weather and a lack of produce in the spring, DeSpain said the Beet Box will primarily be a fall project moving forward. Customers of the Beet Box can use their Illinois Link Cards and receive coupons allowing them to match their purchases of up to $25 for additional fruits and vegetables.