Honors Program Leads to Greater Community Impact

Emma Hoefer (’23) and Cierra Bachmann (’23) were part of a group honors project focused on providing fresh produce to the campus. Their work would eventually lead to internships and the ability to help out the surrounding city of Dubuque.

“Initially, we were only focusing on the Loras community, and we had planned to incorporate planter boxes and hydroponics systems on campus so we could grow our own fresh produce,” Hoefer explained. “During our Legacy Symposium presentation sophomore year, we were told that the city of Dubuque was working on a similar project, and we were put in contact with those involved with that project.”

Running concurrently with the student research, the city was looking to increase access to fresh produce, specifically for those individuals who live in food deserts and low and moderate income areas. Hoefer and Bachmann began attending meetings and eventually were offered internships to assist in the city’s project.

“Our role within this larger project is to research corner stores in these food deserts and low/moderate income areas where fresh produce is currently being sold, and to identify areas where need for this produce exists. The idea is once the need is identified, stores currently lacking in their fresh produce selection can be partnered with local farmers or producers who have excess produce, and the stores can sell the produce to residents in these areas,” Hoefer said.

Their work has been centered on researching the different areas of the city to see what corner stores meet the project criteria. They are also working on designing a survey they can use to inventory what produce is available in these stores, as well as the cost and quality.

“It’s been interesting to learn about all of the data and resources the city has available, and how they are able to funnel those resources into several different organizations that come together to achieve a common goal. We are hopeful the research we are doing now for this project can be used in the future by the city to help residents gain access to fresh, locally grown produce,” Hoefer said.