Operations head Patrick Tosh inspects and counts produce before the buy on Nov. 10. Credit: Courtesy of Allison Swanka

A home-cooked meal doesn’t have to break the bank thanks to Best Food Forward.

Students and staff can order fresh food and dry goods in bulk online roughly every two weeks through the student organization, with Saturday pickups occurring on campus. Best Food Forward organizers will approve and distribute discounted orders of produce, grains and spices. The deadline for the next online order is Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Established in 2016 and currently the only one of its kind available to the Ohio State community, the organization is working to spread the program around Columbus and other cities throughout the United States, according to its website.

“I feel like I buy produce often when I’m at home, and I noticed on campus it’s really hard to get fresh produce, especially if you don’t have the funds or the access,” Kennedy Brown, a Best Food Forward customer and first-year in environmental policy and decision making, said.

The program offers students a variety of dry goods, such as brown rice and black beans, that are sold by the pound, in addition to spices such as cinnamon and garlic powder, which are sold by the ounce, according to the organization’s website.

Students can also choose from two sample packs — a “dorm bag,” which includes bananas, oranges, baby carrots, grapes and gala apples, or a “cooking bag,” which includes yellow onions, celery, red peppers, mushrooms and carrots — both for $6.99. 

Best Food Forward recommends students bring reusable bags and containers to help reduce costs and waste generated by disposable bags.

By participating in the program, students can save up to 53 percent on produce compared to local grocery stores, according to Best Food Forward’s website. Additionally, any extra produce is donated to a food recovery network to eliminate waste.

Best Food Forward also has a “best friend fund,” which helps students who can’t afford fresh produce to receive packages. By filling out a short survey, students can be approved for a coupon code that can be used to order either the dorm or cooking packages online. 

“When we first started, 20 percent of Ohio State students struggled with hunger,” Allison Swanka, a fourth-year in environmental science and co-president of Best Food Forward, said. “I got involved because I wanted to connect people to resources and be able to do something about the lack of produce they were receiving.” 

Swanka said she encourages anyone who doesn’t have enough access to fresh produce to fill out the survey on the website.

Fall semester food pickups, called “buys,” are scheduled for Sept. 28, Oct. 19, Nov. 2 and Nov. 16, Swanka said.

Students can be notified about upcoming orders by subscribing on the organization’s website to an email list or Remind 101, a text messaging service. More information on Best Food Forward can be found at bestfoodforward.org.

The first bulk pickup is Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on the second floor of Scott House. Access to the building will be granted to off-campus students attending the event. BuckID is not required.