Walls Community Garden Lauded as Outstanding New Service Initiative; Kent State Today; April 1, 2019
Kent State University’s Community Engaged Learning Initiative selected the Walls Community Garden for its Outstanding New Service Initiative award.
The garden was selected for the award for understanding the needs of the community and making a positive impact on Kent State University, Walls Elementary School, where the garden is located, and the city of Kent.
Walls Community Garden was started in the spring of 2018 at the elementary school as a way for the school and the community to collaborate. The idea was to provide growing space for people in Kent interested in gardening, while at the same time promoting community and a healthy environment, and enhancing the learning environment at Walls Elementary, too.
Kent State College of Public Health lecturer Cindy Widuck is the garden project coordinator and taught the community-based public health practice class during which the garden was created.
“It was nice to see that so many people were interested in the garden and that they thought it was a worthy initiative,” said Ms. Widuck. “We just got so much overwhelming support that it’s really helped us advance public health initiatives.”
The award recognizes new, innovative service projects developed by Kent State students or faculty members that demonstrate social issue awareness in the community.
The garden was created to bring the community together to share resources and knowledge. It gives public health students the opportunity to get hands-on experience working on a community project.
“It teaches them how to plan programs, work with the community and work with a small budget,” said Ms. Widuck.
Ms. Widuck’s class began by reviewing possible funding sources to pay for the garden’s construction.
“We applied for a couple grants and ended up getting a grant for $3,000 from the city of Kent, which helped bring all of us together and give us the money we needed because it isn’t cheap to have a garden in Kent,” said Ms. Widuck. “We have herds of deer in the community and the deer fencing was a large expense.”
The food grown in the garden has been donated to Kent Social Services, the Women’s Center Pantry at Kent State and within the community.
“There are so many benefits to the garden. It’s good for mental health and connects people in the community,” said Ms. Widuck. “Just the fresh air and the exercise is better than sitting in a classroom all the time.”
Ms. Widuck and Walls Elementary School want to continue to collaborate to bring more programs to the school to connect the children and the teachers with gardening and fresh vegetables to show how that connects to math, science and social studies.
“We want to do a farm-to-school program, food demonstrations in the cafeteria, develop nutrition education into the curriculum and set up a reduce waste program,” Ms. Widuck said.
Ms. Widuck said she hopes to get more people involved with this project to further the collaboration between the schools and the community.
“Down the road, I’m hoping we can bring in people from other colleges to get involved with the garden, so it can benefit their schools as well,” said Ms. Widuck.
For more information about the College of Public Health, visit www.kent.edu/publichealth.
WRITTEN BY: SAMANTHA ABRAHAM