Changemaker: Angelica Marley cooks up partnership with local farms
How a student makes fresh food more accessible by bringing leftover produce to the MSU Denver community.
Editor’s note: Throughout the year, RED’s Changemakers series will feature students, faculty, staff and alumni who are trailblazers for Colorado’s success and active citizens paying it forward in their communities. Are you (or is someone you know) a changemaker? Share your story.
When you walk into Rowdy’s Corner, the food pantry at Metropolitan State University of Denver, one of the first things you’ll see is a table filled with fresh tomatoes. Turn to your left, for a wall of coolers stocked full of eggplant, zucchini, green peppers and more.
It’s an uncommon sight at many urban food banks, which often lack fresh produce. And it’s all thanks to Angelica Marley, a Public Health student who has made it her business to eliminate barriers to accessing healthy food, starting with her own MSU Denver community. As the locality-and-communications manager at Rowdy’s Corner, Marley fosters relationships with local farmers and food suppliers to make sure there’s always a healthy variety of food on Rowdy Corner’s shelves.
“I believe that health is both a gift and a human right,” Marley said. “And gifts are meant to be shared.”
As a Nutrition minor, Marley noticed right away the lack of fresh-food options when she started working at Rowdy’s Corner in 2022, prior to its expansion. At the time, she was an apprentice at Sprout City Farms and saw an opportunity for a partnership. Marley designed a system to bring the farm’s leftover CSA shares to Rowdy’s Corner. Students loved it. Now, this kind of collaboration and outreach is part of her manager role.
But she doesn’t do it alone. The sophomore was quick to credit the Rowdy’s Corner team, saying, “They put their entire corazón (heart) into this work, and I could not do this without them.”
Marley began studying how nutrition impacts health and well-being in summer 2020, even though she didn’t always see college as part of her future. She described her path to higher education as “taking the scenic route.”
She chose MSU Denver for two reasons. First, it’s close to family. “Being a Chicana from Denver, I love that I can stay rooted in our home that is changing so quickly,” she said. Second is MSU Denver’s culture of, as she puts it, “celebrating the nontraditional student.” She cites places such as Rowdy’s Corner and the Student Care Center as resources that contribute to nontraditional-student success.
Over the past three years, she has made it her mission to ensure that the communities to which she belongs have access to fresh, nutritious food. This philosophy, which guides her heart and mind, runs deep. “I think that food is a universal experience that connects us all,” she said. “To be able to sow, harvest and share is what makes us human.”
Food is more than just feeding the body, she continued — it’s “how we feed our minds and spirits.”
“Access to food is a way to be autonomous and tap into our personal power,” she said. “When there is an abundance of food, there is an abundance of joy, resiliency, growth and hope for tomorrow.”
Marley plans to graduate in spring 2025. Until then, she’s getting involved with research projects in the hopes of applying to graduate school. No matter where she lands, she’ll continue to work toward her primary goal: “Bringing fresh veggies to my community and breaking barriers to accessing sustainable health.”