URI Free Farmer’s Market student project wins NACUFS gold award for sustainability in campus food service

Aaron Fitzsenry’s ’23 independent study project offered free food and cooking demonstrations to the campus community.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.— May 23, 2022 — A University of Rhode Island student’s independent study project that offered free locally grown food, recipes, and cooking tips to the campus community, has won the gold award for Outreach and Education from the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS).

The award recognizes institutional members who provide information on sustainability efforts to students and the campus community and acknowledges leadership in the promotion and implementation of environmental sustainability as it relates to campus dining services.

Aaron Fitzsenry ‘23, a professional chef in URI dining services and student in the Professional Leadership Studies program, worked with the university’s nutrition and food sciences department and sports nutrition specialists to organize a Free Farmer’s Market for the campus community. The market offered organic produce grown in the campus gardens and cooking demonstrations for students to make the recipes in their dorm rooms.

Fitzsenry used the Free Farmer’s Market as the basis for his SPC 490 independent study course, which allows students to take on a project of their own design that can translate into a meaningful life experience or enhance their professional goals.

“I wanted to observe how different groups would come together and problem solve our way through a brand new initiative,” said Fitzsenry.  “Being recognized for the successful outcome demonstrates how similar collaboration is possible in other campus environments. 

“For me personally, this is concrete evidence of the synergy that is possible under cooperative leadership.  These relationships are what make any ongoing program sustainable, and I’m really grateful that we’ve been able to shine a spotlight on the importance of sustainability for URI,” Fitzsenry said.

Fitzsenry added that he wanted his cooking demonstrations to emphasize how simple ingredients can make good food. Salads especially became a mainstay of his demonstrations since they used ingredients found at the market and are easy to prepare at home.

“I took a concept and turned it into an interactive teaching scenario,” he said. “Returning the literal fruits of URI’s labors to the campus community quickly became a reinforcing cycle of sustainability.”

Jonathan Kroll, academic director of the Professional leadership Studies program, and Fitzsenry’s academic advisor, said, “Aaron undertook an ambitious, collaborative independent study project that included many university stakeholders from diverse corners of the institution and crafted an experience that can and will undoubtedly serve as a model for other students.  With this recognition, the project has been celebrated at the highest level of food services professionals.”

Fitzsenry has also created instruction videos of simple recipes that can be made in a residence hall or apartment using basic equipment. Videos can be found at

https://web.uri.edu/dining/crashculinary/ .