Notice something new cropping up on the southwest strip of lawn behind the Academic Center? Two raised cedar beds just across the Wesley Acres property line will serve as a pilot “Giving Garden” this growing season.
The collaborative project will bring together students, staff, faculty and neighbors for a common cause: addressing hunger locally. Volunteers from DMU and Wesley Acres constructed, planted and will tend to the garden, donating the produce to the homeless.
One four-by-eight-foot bed is built more traditionally on the ground, with latticework for beans to climb and grow. The second bed is wheelchair-accessible, so gardeners with physical limitations can participate from a seated position. Although small in scale, Giving Gardens can make a collective impact.
“Giving Gardens provide significant benefits to the employers and the community,” says Shirley Burgess, volunteer engagement officer for United Way of Central Iowa, which promotes the concept and works with organizations to develop a plan.
“Food-insecure families now have access to fresh, heathy, locally-produced food,” Burgess says. “For the employers, in addition to the obvious physical activity and wellness benefits for employees, Giving Gardens promote team-building, shared goals and provide a fun, educational and fulfilling activity. The DMU and Wesley Giving Garden is a great model of business neighbors working together to address the issue of food insecurity. This is also our first raised garden and will serve as an example for others looking for an alternative to the traditional garden.”
DMU’s Community Relations department initiated the Giving Garden project after hearing from representatives from the Wellness and Global Health departments — as well as a number of student clubs — that there was a desire for a garden project on campus. Wesley Acres jumped at the opportunity to engage their residents in an on-site volunteer opportunity, and worked through layers of logistics to make it possible.
“I’m thrilled that DMU and Wesley Acres could come together to be part of the Giving Garden movement,” says Brianne Sanchez, DMU community relations manager. “This inter-generational volunteer opportunity is visible evidence of DMU’s desire to be a catalyst for healthier community. We’re excited to see how the garden grows.”