The farm at the United World College campus in Montezuma normally supplies its international boarding students with fresh vegetables and serves as a research lab where students test mulch, seeds and water.
But the dining hall has stood largely empty since last month, when the organization closed its campuses worldwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school near Las Vegas, N.M., was left with hundreds of pounds of produce — prompting leaders to shift focus from campus to community. The school is now providing 400 prepared meals each week for local food banks and homeless shelters, as well as freshly grown goods from the farm.
“We had a moment like, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do with all this food we’ve been preparing to serve students over the next two months?’ ” said Carl-Martin Nelson, a spokesman for United World College USA. “But the idea of being connected to our community is tied to our mission. Therefore, it was kind of easy for us to know there’s a broader use for our farm right now.”
He added, “We’re simply trying to be a force for good in our community.”
The U.S. campus of United World College, which enrolls 230 high school juniors and seniors from more than 90 countries on its 200-acre property in Montezuma, donated 125 pounds of spinach and lettuce over the last two weeks alone.
While students are gone, Nelson said, staff members who are still living on campus are tending to the farm. And four workers from international food service contractor Sodexo, who had been furloughed, returned to the school to help prepare meals for those in need.
“The four furloughed employees chose to forgo their unemployment benefits and social isolation because they wanted to do something that has a positive impact on the community by cooking and packaging meals,” Food Services Director Aida Samaniego said in a news release on the effort.
With the help of a $5,000 grant from the Santa Fe Community Foundation, United World College has been making weekly deliveries of produce and meals to the Samaritan House Homeless Shelter, Comedor Soup Kitchen and Las Vegabounds, a collaborative citywide effort to deliver food to homebound Las Vegas residents.
“It was a miracle,” said George Lyon, executive director of the Samaritan House, in the news release. “We were really trying to figure out how we were going to support this tremendous need.”