Gardens would use grant to help feed DeKalb area


James Roti, junior environmental studies major, informs students how to plant vegetables in the Communiversity Garden during De-Stress Fest Wednesday in Cole Hall. At the Fest, students were able to de-stress through LEGO building, zen gardening, coloring and learning to garden through demonstrations.

By Lark Lewis

DeKalb County Community Gardens organizers hope to win a grant to create a food forest that will help end hunger in the DeKalb area.

The group entered Seeds of Change, a non-profit organization’s grant program, and advanced to the second round by placing in the top 50 out of 600 entries. The grant program will award two $20,000 grants as well as 15 $10,000 grants, and whose winners will be announced May 5.

DeKalb County Community Gardens made it into the top 50 finalist group thanks to people who voted on Seeds of Change’s website,

“A volunteer who works with our organization brought the [grant program] information to us, and we decided to pursue it,” said Dan Kenney, DeKalb County Community Gardens executive director. “We were very grateful we were chosen to the top 50.”

Each organization will be judged by a Seeds of Change panel on whether it meets the criteria of the Seeds of Change mission to preserve biodiversity and promote the use of sustainable organic agricultural practices. Kenney said he was attracted to Seeds of Change because of the education it provides to people about where food comes from.

“[Seeds of Change] supports programs like ours. We change lives, eating habits, and [we] support natural, organic kinds of growing things,” said Sheryl Nak, DeKalb County Community Gardens associate director.

If the gardens group is chosen as one of the 17 grant winners, its organizers hope to create a food forest which will include vegetables to help those in DeKalb County who do not have access to fresh food.

“We are surrounded by corn and soybeans,” Nak said. “But we have some food deserts where it’s not easy for [some] to get to a major grocery store or fresh foods.”

Kenney said he hopes to plant asparagus and rhubarb for the food forest but would also like to add more trees, bushes and perennials to the group’s community orchard on Annie Glidden if the group receives a grant.

DeKalb County Community Gardens has more than 15 acres of expandable land and 40 garden sites throughout the county. Some students hope that with grant money, the garden could bridge the gap between NIU and DeKalb.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said freshman nursing major Megan Fish. “It would bring DeKalb to campus, showing collaboration.”