Food tunnels on the Bloemfontein Campus

Food insecurity is one of the many challenges experienced by less privileged students at institutions of higher learning. At the University of the Free State, research findings indicated that 59% of students go through periods of hunger. 60% of students skip meals because of financial reasons, almost 41% use fasting as an excuse and 43% are too embarrassed to ask for help. 

To address this problem, members of the University of the Free State (UFS) Food Environment Project collaborated to implement a vegetable production and training programme. The initial team consisted of Prof Johan van Niekerk, Dr JW Swanepoel and Carien Denner from the Department of Sustainable Food Systems and Development. They are supported by Karen Scheepers from the Division of Student Affairs (KovsieAct), Annelize Visagie from the Food Environment Office and Prof Michael Rudolph from Siyakhana Food Gardens, where the inspiration for the project originated. The main purpose of the project is to turn the garden project into a vegetable production and training programme for students. 

Due to this groups’ dedication, planning and fundraising efforts, two 300m2 tunnels, are currently located on the Bloemfontein campus, next to Welwitchia Residence. Financial input for the tunnels and vegetable boxes came from Tiger Brands (through assistance from Prof Michael Rudolph of Siyakhana Food Gardens), while seeds and seedlings were sponsored by Herman du Plessis from Sakata Seeds and Deon Coetzee from Kwaggafontein nursery respectively. Facilities management under the directorship of Nico Janse van Resburg contributed additional funding and Groundwater studies assisted with the boreholes. It was furthermore equipped with two water tanks and water pumps. Together the two tunnels provide proficient shelter for forty vegetable boxes. Each residence on the campus was given one vegetable box where they planted one type of vegetable crop, including beetroot, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, swiss chard, tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins.  

The area was fenced off by the UFS facilities – they contributed financially for the fence as well as 30 fruit trees that we are hoping to cultivate in the future.

Great feedback is received from student recipients detailing how grateful they are for this support during these difficult times. The willingness of staff members to assist with the packing and distribution of parcels should also be noted. To date roughly five and a half tonnes (5 412.4kg) of vegetables was harvested from the tunnels.

Currently hundreds of students receive food parcels (sponsored by Tiger Brands and Gift of the Givers) that contain non-perishable food items from the UFS Food Bank. The UFS Community Garden Project provides additional support by supplying fresh produce, which is rich in natural nutrients that can be added to these parcels. Students can focus on their studies without worrying about their next meal, thus increasing their chances to excel academically and ultimately obtain their degrees. Basic food production is a transferrable skill that each of these students can take back to their communities. If communities can grow their own vegetables, it will have a significant impact on poverty eradication in our country.

We would like to pour out our heartfelt thanks to all who made this project possible, it surely makes a huge difference in the lives of many students.


• Tiger Brands 
• Gift of the Givers
• Prof Michael Rudolph and Dr Evans Muchesa, Siyakhana Food Gardens
• Herman du Plessis, Sakata Seeds 
• Deon Coetzee, Kwaggafontein nursery 
• Nico Janse van Rensburg, UFS Facilities management 
• Professor Danie Vermeulen, Dean of Natural and Agriculture
• Groundwater studies, UFS
• Prof Francis Petersen, Vice Chancellor of the UFS


UFS Campus News 2022
UFS Campus News 2021
UFS Campus News 2020
Grow your own vegetables

Foodtunnel harvestFoodtunnel UFS     Vegetable Tunnels boxes with seedlings     


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531


Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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