Food Justice at the Outback

What Is Food Justice

The Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy defines food justice as “the right of communities everywhere to produce, process, distribute, access, and eat good food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, or community.” WWU has a high percentage of students facing food insecurity, with 68% of students skimping or skipping meals due to finances. Feeding Western:  We believe everyone has the right to healthy, fresh, quality produce. At the Outback, this means empowering every student to learn about and grow their own fruits and vegetables. And our focus is students growing food for students – with the harvest going to workers, volunteers, and the WWU campus WHOLE food pantries. Come join us at a weekly work party to contribute to this important project!

Picture Food Justice at the Outback

What we grow and where

Our Ed Beds are where we have production rows for grains and vegetables. We also harvest from the Forest Garden, berry patch, greenhouse, hothouse, and herb garden. Our offerings change as the seasons change, but have included spinach, lettuce and other salad greens, edible flowers, onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, parsnips, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, rutabagas, squash, melons, berries, apples, pears, quince, plums, and grapes.

vegetables, student holding a pumpkin and a hand holding green vegetables


To improve access to fresh food, when a crop is ready to harvest, signs will indicate where visitors can pick produce for themselves to enjoy at home!


Picture take what you need sign

Food pantries on campus

Fresh produce from the Outback – along with surplus from local farms, non-perishable food, and personal hygiene items – can be found at either of the WHOLE pantries on campus:

  • Viking Union 511

Monday through Thursday 7am-10pm

Friday 7am-11pm

Saturday 9am-11pm and Sunday 10am-11pm

  • Birnam Wood Community Building 101

Monday through Friday 4pm-9pm

Saturday and Sunday 5pm-7pm

For more information about the WHOLE pantries, contact Leti Romo, Assistant Director, Dean of Students Office:, x6127.

Other food resources

Swipe Out Hunger
Swipe Out Hunger allows students in need to “swipe” into the dining commons free of charge with their Western ID card. Students interested in receiving meals must submit an interest form through the Feeding Western Office (HSH 30). Students can complete the form online or in person at the Feeding Western Office. Anyone with a meal plan can donate their unused swipes to help students with food insecurity.

Bellingham Food Bank
The Bellingham Food Bank serves as a hub, connecting neighbors and emergency food providers with a steady supply of nutritious groceries, fresh food and a smile. See the Food and Meal Resources in Whatcom County guide.

Seed saving and sharing

Seeds may not be something the average eater thinks about. But as Natalie Hoidel wrote in 2015:

“Seeds are the foundation of global food systems...the right to healthy, sustainably produced food is the cornerstone of food sovereignty. Yet without access to quality, affordable seeds and the self-determination to save, select and share seeds, no farmer or consumer can fully attain this sovereignty. Seeds carry the genetic keys to biodiversity and climate change resilience, and are records of cultural knowledge, reflecting historical breeding practices. Seed diversity and access to this diversity have eroded substantially over the past 100 years due to the development of hybrid seed types, patents and global trade agreements. Restoring seed diversity is complicated. But there are simple steps to take on a community level to better integrate seed access into the food sovereignty movement.”

The Outback is working to empower students and our community by using open-pollinated seeds sourced as locally as possible by growers like Resilient Seeds and Uprising Seeds.  We then intentionally let certain plants mature past the time we’d harvest them for eating; we let them to go seed for the sake of collecting, cleaning, counting, packaging, storing, and sharing seeds. This multi-step process is critical if we want to understand and engage with the entire life cycle of our plants!

Picture orach seed in bowl