Community Garden Research to Focus on Student Food Insecurity
Jennifer Marks’ new research project promises to be ground-breaking – literally. The MPH student in social and behavioral sciences is creating innovative community gardens on campus in a pilot to remedy student food insecurity. “Kent State is no different than any other community at this time of lingering economic malaise and concerns about student financial support,” observes Marks. “I believe there are many students who lack resources for enough food to eat or may have funds only for low-cost, but nutrient-deficient, foods such as ramen noodles or frozen pizza. By all measures, they are food insecure,” she says.
Marks’ research will quantify food insecurity on campus and build a community garden to teach students how to use inexpensive resources to grow, harvest, cook and store food. A post-assessment will determine whether the effort made a difference in the students having more food and more nutritious food. Marks also hopes to demonstrate that gardening can combat the stigma associated with food insecurity, while teaching students valuable life skills. The main community garden, open to students, faculty and staff, will be relocated from near Allerton Street to a yet-to-be-determined site on the Kent Campus. Marks is proposing to construct a second, more education-focused, garden near Lowry Hall, home of the College of Public Health. There growing will be done chiefly in large self-watering containers that are easy to manage and contain organic soil to reduce the need for pesticides. “The garden will be open and welcoming to participants and nonparticipants alike. There will be seating, and we will overgrow the plants so that visitors can forage,” says Marks, who is modeling this garden after one at a university in Montreal. Marks is collaborating with students and currently working with faculty and staff from the Office of Sustainability, the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the Campus Kitchen food recovery effort and the Nutrition & Dietetics Department on her project. “There is a lot of talk about food insecurity among school children and adults, but there is little attention paid to college students,” Marks says. “Students try to make do, but how can they concentrate on their studies if they’re hungry? Marks is seeking volunteers to help with a January survey to quantify the number of food insecure students on campus and recruit study participants that identify as food insecure. She also will be looking for hands-on gardening help next summer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photograph: Edible Campus, McGill University, Montreal. Photographer: Vikram Bhatt. Reprinted with permission, Minimum Cost Housing Group, McGill © 2013. All Rights Reserved.