Huskie Service Scholars grow food to share

Kathryn Olson plants tomatoes.

Kathryn Olson plants tomatoes.

How does your garden grow?

For a team of Huskies Service Scholars from the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, it grows for others.

NIU’s Huskie Service Scholars program develops a peer network where teams of incoming first-generation or low-income students are paired with an upperclassmen mentor.

Kathryn Olson, a 2012-2013 HSS peer mentor, knew what she wanted her team to accomplish when she was introduced to DeKalb County Community Gardens and its efforts to provide nutritional food to those in need.

“Participating in Huskies Service Scholars … encouraged me to look for more ways to get involved in my community,” Olson says. “I thought of the idea of HSS adopting and taking care of their own garden as a project of civic engagement.”

She has begun to bring her idea to life thanks to a $1,500 McCormick Student Civic Engaged Scholar awarded to her by The McCormick Foundation in partnership with Illinois Campus Compact. She also has received support from the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning and ILCC-NIU AmeriCorps VISTA Lucero Martinez.

Volunteers gather compost to fill up garden beds.

Volunteers gather compost to fill up garden beds.

Students joined DeKalb County Community Gardens volunteers June 28 to build four garden beds at Immanuel Lutheran Church, which generously allowed the NIU students to take over space next to its Hope Garden.

Volunteers filled and planted the beds with a variety of vegetables and herbs including tomatoes, summer squash, basil, lettuce and cucumbers.

All of the crops harvested from the garden will be donated to community sites (chosen by the 2013-2014 HSS cohort) that are in need of fresh produce; the plan allows the Huskie Service Scholars program to have a continuous and sustainable opportunity for volunteerism while educating students on the importance and benefits of locally grown food.

For more information on ways to help with the community garden project, or to learn more about Huskie Service Scholars, call (815) 753-8159 or email lmartinez4@niu.edu.

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