Growing up on a farm with chickens and horses in Maryland has taught Olivia Lopez ’18 important lessons. First, she learned how to listen to the land. Second, she discovered the land is her passion in life.
Recently transferring from another local college, Lopez, a dietetic major, is taking after her mother who is a registered nurse with a BSN and a master’s degree in public health and is working in that field. Providing people with fresh fruits and vegetables through area food banks is a top priority for Lopez. She notes that donations include plenty of chips and cereal, but people need the nutritional benefits of produce in their diets.
Wanting an outlet to share her passion for gardening and nutrition, Lopez inquired with Student Development and Engagement about starting a gardening club to plant seeds and donate the crops to the Chester County Food Bank. As president of the new student club, called the Muddy Macs, Lopez has recruited several other students who will be helping Sister Susan Cronin, IHM, professor of Biology, moderator of the Muddy Macs, and “owner” of Immaculata’s established raised bed gardens. Besides providing a dedicated group of students to plant and harvest the crops, Lopez wants to educate the campus community about nutrition. Goals for the Muddy Macs include setting up a co-op with students from Villa Maria Academy, and teaching people how to establish a home garden. With the ultimate goal of being a dietitian in the Air Force, Lopez aims to serve in the Air Force like her father and grandfather. As a military dietitian, Lopez would create special diets for servicemen/women who cannot pass their regular physical exams, and she would also attend to the nutritional needs of retirees and veterans.
“Everyone has to pass PT,” she states. Living near Bethesda Naval Hospital and Andrews Air Force Base, Lopez sees some great potential to help in this area. Being exposed to both military and farming lifestyles, she is able to forge these experiences into a career path once she graduates from Immaculata University and can enter the Air Force as a commissioned officer if she is accepted.
When asked about the future of farming, Lopez says “It’s a bit of an uphill battle for agriculture in general in this country, but we need it.” She explains that the government subsidizes farmers to grow only grain and corn and that is why fruits and vegetables are more expensive to purchase. “You’re giving money to the big corporation farms that don’t need the money, but there are these little farms or orchards that have apples and they can’t get any money and they are struggling. That is why they have to sell their product so expensively.”
Lopez recommends that people watch a 2012 documentary film, A Place at the Table, that explores how there is so much money involved trying to keep agricultural practices the same. According to Lopez, even school lunch programs need reform so that the government is subsidizing healthier food instead of chips and soda.
With one full semester of classes at IU under her belt, Lopez has already made an impact by starting a Swim Club in addition to the Muddy Macs and recently received the Engaged Leadership Award.
There is so much passion and energy within Lopez, that it is contagious to those around her.
“It’s such a great feeling – growing something, especially from a seed,” comments Lopez. “Whatever you pick from the garden, that’s yours.”