Fresh fruits and vegetables are critical for creating healthy meals for clients, though they are not always abundant in a Campus Kitchen. This year, thanks to the generous support of Clif Bar Family Foundation, three of our Campus Kitchens will be able to expand their gardening initiatives and harvest more produce than they did last year. By the time gardening season wraps up in the fall, the Campus Kitchens at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Gonzaga University and Marquette University will have harvested more than 1,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to incorporate into nutritious, balanced meals.
But that’s not the only product of these gardens: they’re also providing a hands-on learning environment for communities and nutrition education classes.
In Boston, students from the Dever-McCormack School have spent seven weeks learning about compost, the life cycle of plants, what plants need to grow, garden “friends and foes” and more in the Campus Kitchen at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s community garden. To wrap up their time learning in the garden, the students will get to create and eat salads full of the nutritious vegetables they’ve grown with their own hands.
In Spokane, the Campus Kitchen at Gonzaga University (CKGU) is growing no fewer than 16 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables for their clients. But soon, some of their clients will be able to grow their own produce: residents at the O’Malley Senior Center have access to a few barrel gardens in their courtyard, but the demand is far greater than the supply. This summer, CKGU will build several raised garden beds – ensuring they are accessible to clients in wheelchairs – for these older adults to plant in next spring.
In Milwaukee, the Campus Kitchen at Marquette University has taken on responsibility for ensuring the Marquette Community Garden is fully planted and well maintained all summer long. They’re partnering with other students and groups who also use their food-growing know-how to help others. One of those groups is the Physicians Assistants Program, whose students do clinical work with individuals at high risk of food insecurity. The group uses the skills they are learning in the garden to teach patients about nutrient-dense foods and how they could grow for themselves.
While these three Campus Kitchens are making an impact in their individual communities, they are also collaborating and sharing best practices. This summer, the Campus Kitchens at UMass Boston and Gonzaga will put their heads together to create a garden education curriculum (much like our existing nutrition education curriculum), using lessons and activities with proven success in their own gardens. When the curriculum is finished, all of our Campus Kitchens – not to mention any garden educator – will be able to use it to teach children how to grow the food their bodies need to thrive.
Thank you, Clif Bar Family Foundation, for investing in these growing gardens. We can’t wait to see just how much they will produce this summer – both in pounds and in knowledge.
Sean Morrisey just wrapped up his sophomore year at St. Lawrence University where he’s majoring in environmental science and English. In addition to being a full-time student, Sean is also on the leadership team for the Campus Kitchen at St. Lawrence University. But that’s not the only leadership position Sean has taken on during his time in college: he recently helped launch the Canton Sustainability Committee, a group of students and community members interested in addressing issues related to food and agriculture, transportation, energy and housing.
Read more about Sean’s work with the Canton Sustainability Committee on the St. Lawrence University website.
We are always thrilled when students involved in a Campus Kitchen take on additional leadership roles in – and outside of – school. This year, 98 percent of our student leaders said they felt more confident in their leadership abilities because of their experience with a Campus Kitchen. That same survey showed that 95 percent of students felt the leadership abilities they developed would make them more likely to find a job post-graduation.
Our leadership development efforts don’t stop there. We work to empower the next generation of leaders to implement innovative models for combating hunger, developing food systems and helping communities help themselves – while they are in school and after. 92 percent of the student leaders we surveyed said they were more likely to become involved in efforts to address food insecurity in their communities after graduation.
In the 2013-2014 academic year, our Campus Kitchens are on track to recover thousands more pounds of food and serve hundreds more meals than in the previous year. But perhaps more importantly, the students leading these efforts are more able to reach into their communities and make a lasting difference.