Owens Community College HARVEST Project
Submitted on June 22, 2012 - 8:56am
Student preparing food at the Toledo Seagate Food Bank
The Owens Harvest Food Pantry (Toledo campus)
Students visiting the Owens Harvest Garden
Owens Community College
Krista Kiessling, Director of Service Learning, Office of Service Learning, Owens Community College
Matthew Ross, Faculty, Urban Agriculture, Landscape and Turfgrass Management, Owens Community College
The Owens Community College Harvest Project seeks to "Help all People Reap the Value of Education through Service and working Together." Our on campus food pantry and community garden serve students in need while also offering much needed multi-disciplinary service learning opportunities for students. The Office of Service Learning, the Owens Urban Agriculture Program and the Owens Foundation work together to share resources, build awareness and most importantly support student success.
In the Spring of 2011, the Community Garden was developed to provide an on campus service learning opportunity for Owens Learning Communities' students. By the end of the fall, it became apparent that the students were utilizing the garden for food support. At this point the idea for an on campus food pantry was born. We capitalized on a relationship with the local Toledo Seagate Food Bank for ongoing support. As of today, we are serving over 250 student families a month and distributing over a ton of food with much of the food coming out of our community garden. Students utilizing services are encouraged to stay involved with these projects and many volunteer in either the pantry or the garden as part of a "pay it forward" initiative.
Key goals for this project include:
*ongoing creation of academic projects/activities that utilize the community garden and food pantry project.
*maintenance of sustainable options for ongoing food support in the food pantry in order to support students in need.
*increasing retention and graduation rates for those students with financial challenges that may impeded academic success.
*nurturing community relationships and encouraging student participation in off campus service opportunities
*development of service leadership curriculum that uses the garden and food pantry project as a model for effective community support.
This project is ongoing but was established in the Spring of 2010 with the support of the Owens Community College Foundation, the School of Business, the Landscape and Turfgrass Management (Urban Agriculture) program, and the Project Degree Learning Community. The implementation of this project involves faculty utilizing the garden and the pantry as an opportunity for on site service learning. The implementation is directly related to the culture of the class utilizing these services. All are supported by the Director of Service Learning with ongoing support from the Service Learning office. For example, Sociology students might use the garden/pantry to explore local issues of poverty and the impact of community gardening, English students have used the garden as a source of primary research for writing assignments and also used the garden as a tool to understand concepts like synthesis and/or summary, Marketing students have developed materials to promote and support the Harvest Project and collected food and many other much needed items. We continue to explore and invite the many ways to use this project in an academic environment.
Spring 2011 - creation of Community Garden
Winter of 2011/12 - established space, shelving and partnerships to open the Owens Harvest Food Pantries on the Toledo and Findlay campuses.
February 2012 - opened the Owens Harvest Food Pantries
June 2012 - began consistent harvest of the community garden to support the food pantries
ongoing - development and implementation of academic initiatives related to both of these projects or the overarching identity of the Harvest Project.
This project has required very little funding due to the collaborative nature. We have also focused on sustainability and utilizing resources that might have otherwise been disposed of.
We began with $1000 from the Owens Community College foundation. This covered the cost of wooden raised beds and soil for the community garden. We have spent an additional $2-300 in miscellaneous expenses to set up each project.
There are no costs to maintain either program aside from ongoing support and maintenance that would otherwise exist at the college. There is no cost for the food provided by the Toledo Seagate Food Bank. They are the only food bank in the state that does not charge consumers. Our space was provided by the School of Business. Our bookshelves were repurposed from the campus bookstore. We continually seek out underutilized materials and/or donations that do not burden the campus or take funds away from student programs.
Donations are collected through the foundation or in an ongoing "agency" account for the purchase of hygiene items or other needed food items that might not be available through the food bank. ALL dollars are spent on resources for the students.
We are in the beginning of establishing an assessment protocol that accurately captures the data for this project. The food pantry numbers are being collected regularly. We are serving approximately 250 people per month and distributing approximately 2000 pounds of food per month. Our numbers are fluctuating due to awareness but we hope to hit a "plateau" soon. Approximately 20-30 students per semester are utilizing the pantry for service learning course projects, student organization community service projects and personal enrichment.
Our outcomes are based on the Civic Engagement Outcomes for our institution as follows:
Students will :
1. Define the characteristics of active citizenship (what it means to be a good citizen in a community).
2. Identify the communities in which they reside
3. Recognize the rules that govern these communities and the structure that designs them.
4. Understand the societal causes for community issues.
5. Apply their academic knowledge to serve the larger community.
We have learned that existing community relationships are crucial to the success of our programs. We have also learned that implementing this program has impacted the culture of our campus. Our students are feeling nurtured and supported by the institution and our faculty are gaining a more intricate understanding of the challenges facing the students on this campus.
My advice for others would be COLLABORATION - COLLABORATION - COLLABORATION.