Garden’s harvest feeds needy

By Keith Hernandez

Volunteers of the Communiversity Gardens on the east side of Anderson Hall are planting cold weather crops that will go to those in need throughout the fall.

Students, faculty and community members have planted spinach, lettuce and broccoli, among other things, all of which will grow through October. Dan Kenney, executive director of DeKalb Country Community Gardens, said volunteers have harvested almost 100 pounds of produce Sunday and donated it to food pantries in DeKalb, including Hope Haven, Huskies Student Food Pantry, Barb Food Mart and Feed’em Soup.

What makes the garden vital to the community is it provides fresh vegetables to help supplement the diets of lower-income families who otherwise would have to eat nonperishable food that is processed and low in nutrition, Kenney said.

The garden is “not just raising any food,” Kenney said. “It’s raising healthy, nutritious food.”

The design of the garden, which was created in April, was made as part of a group effort between students and Michaela Holtz, assistant director of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning and Communiversity Gardens volunteer. The circular garden is divided into four sections, each representing groups of continents and their respective vegetables.

The volunteers “wanted to make sure, for example, some of the type of kale and cabbage and some of the herbs are located in Europe because those originated in Europe,” Holtz said. “We’re also trying to make sure that some of the vegetables are growing in the continents where they’re popular in the cuisine.”

Kathryn Olson, AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America member, helped push for the creation of the garden. Olson works with Holtz in assisting the garden’s new student volunteers.

“We’ve been kind of stepping in and helping out the students because we have a little more knowledge about gardening,” Olson said. “We’re trying to be that liaison between the students that help take care of the garden and the faculty and community.”

Despite producing more than 500 pounds of produce since its groundbreaking in May, the garden could use more volunteers, Kenney said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students at NIU to get involved with the project, and that way they’re also involved with community,” Kenney said. “That’s the whole point of the Communiversity Gardens: bringing members of the community together with the students to raise food for those people in need.”