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26 February 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Vegetable tunnels
Two vegetable tunnels were recently established on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus to contribute to the fight against food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a problem on university campuses worldwide. The three campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS) are not exempt from this plight. Research findings indicate that more than 64% of students at the university go through periods of hunger.

Annelize Visagie, , from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading the Food Environment Office at the UFS, confirms that food insecurity at higher education institutions is not a new phenomenon.

In a study with first-year students as focus, Visagie found that academic performance declines and coping mechanisms increase as the severity of food insecurity increases.

“Students use different coping mechanisms, with an alarming percentage of students (40,6%) using fasting as an excuse to friends for not having food, 60% of students skipping meals because they do not have enough money, and 43,2% of students being too embarrassed to ask for help.”

Visagie states that various factors contribute to this alarming scenario, with the main reason being that the majority of students come from impoverished economic and social circumstances. This suggests that although students receive NSFAS funding or any other bursary, it is not a guarantee that they are food secure.

Focus on student wellbeing
Aligning with the UFS strategic goal of improving student success and wellbeing, UFS staff is working hard to implement initiatives and obtain sponsorships and food donations to ensure that students do not go hungry.

Members of the university’s Food Environment Project, Drs Johan van Niekerk and JW Swanepoel from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE), and Karen Scheepers from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading KovsieAct partnered to move the existing vegetable tunnels on the UFS experimental farm to the Bloemfontein Campus.

The construction of the tunnels and boxes was financed by Tiger Brands. Professor Michael Rudolph and Dr Evans Muchesa who are involved with the Siyakhana Food Gardens, assisted with the training of students and consultation throughout the project.

The two tunnels (30 m x 10 m each) are covered with netting, and two water tanks with pumps are fitted to provide the necessary irrigation.

Vegetables add value
Dr Swanepoel explains: “In each tunnel there are 20 raised wooden boxes. Each residence received one box where they planted one type of vegetable crop, including Swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, beet, kale, and broccoli.”

Residence Committee members from all on- and off-campus student communities in civic and social-responsibility portfolios, as well as civic and social-responsibility student associations, received the necessary training to plant vegetables.

The vegetables were planted in mid-February and the first harvest is expected around mid-April.

This initiative, which will help students in the near future to keep the hunger pangs at bay in a healthy way, adds to the existing No Student Hungry programme. Visagie says it is important for the university to assist students in making healthy choices and to educate them on decisions to secure nutritional food for themselves.

In addition, the university also received food parcels from Rise Against Hunger, together with donations from organisations such as Gift of the Givers – providing 200 food parcels to students on the Qwaqwa Campus, and the recent donation from Tiger Brands – providing 500 food parcels to students.

News Archive

Rolene Strauss: a beauty with a passion
2017-12-08


 Description: Rolene Read more Tags: Rolene Strauss, Miss World, Faculty of Health Sciences, MB ChB 

Rolene Strauss and Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, after
receiving her MB CHB degree during the Summer Graduation on the
Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State
on 7 December.
Photo: Charl Devenish

Spotlight photo: Johan Roux

It was definitely a moment to remember when former Miss World 2014, Rolene Strauss, was among the 107 students in the Faculty of Health Sciences walking across the stage in the Callie Human Center on 7 December 2017. 

Rolene, now Dr Rolene Strauss, received her MB ChB degree during the Summer Graduations at the University of the Free State (UFS). She also recited the Vow of the Graduands in Medicine during the ceremony. She resumed her studies at the UFS in 2016 after putting it on hold in 2014 when she was crowned as Miss World.  

Passion for health and education
“My love for health and medicine is what got me back to studying. There were so many opportunities to be explored after my year as Miss World, but I wouldn’t have been ‘Rolene’ if I didn’t finish my medical studies. I have absolutely no regrets,” Rolene said in a statement.
 
“I’m a test-tube baby and I believe my passion for health was born with me,” Rolene said. This is what fostered her deep set passion for health, women, and education.

Together with her sister-in-law, Dr Ledivia Strauss, she will be launching a holistic women’s health practice in Paarl next year. Rolene will not be commencing her medical internship in 2018, as she plans on doing more public speaking engagements, finishing her book, and focusing on the medical practice. 

Photo gallery:  

7 December Morning session

Video:

7 December Morning session

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