Dining services collaborates with community garden for healthier options on campus

by Shayne Zack, Contributor

Last year San Diego State Dining Executive Chef Ed Glebus invested in 10 plots at the community garden, with the idea that the crops could be incorporated into faculty and student dining options.

The community garden cannot solely support student needs for healthier food choices, but this gradual incorporation of healthy options is a giant step in the right direction.

They are currently growing radishes, black kale, cauliflower and snow peas.

The charming community garden is tucked away behind Parking Structure 6.

It was started by students, faculty and community members. The garden is organic, pesticide-free and grown using ecologically friendly methods.

One morning I visited the garden. Kat Hunter, a nutrition major, was checking on her planter box.

“The garden is important to me because it lets me get connected with the food I eat and see where it comes from,” Hunter said.

Geology senior Alex Woods was in the garden testing soil for his geography class.

“The garden serves as a applicable demonstration of what I learn in class,” Woods said. “As students, we’re exposed to so many people and germs on campus. Eating organic vegetables and fruit is like a form of medicine, it keeps my immune system strong.”

The garden could be a way to bring more nutritious options to students and also educate them about where our food comes from and the impact it has on the earth.

“The existence of the garden is a common central focal point that organizes social interaction, learning about human health, sustainable food methods and positive resource consumption,” sustainabilty and enviromental science professor Matthew Lauer said.

In addition to the obvious benefits of improved health and sustainability, the garden provides a location for social interactions between gardeners and community members that cultivate a positive relationship with the community.

Many of the people who own plots in the garden are fairly new at the art of organic gardening and constantly learning what gardening techniques are successful.

“Some of the frustrations with organic gardening are low crop yields, plants growing then quickly dying and high costs,” Glebus said. “It is a slow process with an enormous learning curves. … One of our recent successes in the garden was a high yield of basil at the end of the summer.”

His colleagues turned the basil into pesto and used it in University Towers Kitchen for flatbreads, caprese salad and the Green Fork plant-based station.

While the cost of crops from organic gardening cannot compare with low costs of processed, chemically altered food, the health benefits, initiation of educational social interactions and low impact on the earth are our social responsibility.

The Dining Services collaboration with the community garden is one more example of excellent leadership innovation seen in students, employees and the surrounding community.