Community gardens a cheaper, greener alternative for vegetable

Food is a big issue for college students. As leaders of college organizations well know, attendance at meetings or functions of any kind may double by simply offering free pizza, not least of all because pizza is an upgrade for students making it by on Ramen and single serve Mac & Cheese.

Like everything else these days, food is more expensive than ever, and the rising cost of food is hard to swallow for many college students. For the past two years, the cost of staples such as wheat, corn and rice have doubled. And our paychecks (for those of us who have one at all) aren’t getting any bigger.

The reasons for the sharp increase in the cost of food, like the rising cost of so many other things, are linked at least in part to fuel consumption. It’s not cheap to send produce halfway across the world so we can have fresh tomatoes and bananas in December. Others point to the emptying of our nation’s breadbasket to make room for ethanol-producing crops such as corn and soybeans, replacing food with fuel.

More and more Americans, and especially college students, are looking for ways to live green and to reduce their personal usage of fuel, and there may be a way to supplement the bare bones diet of the college freshman while living greener (and saving some green, too).

Community gardening has gained significant popularity in recent years. Although kitchen gardens were the status quo only a few generations ago, in recent decades, most people chose to forego food of the home-grown variety in lieu of more convenient alternatives such as fast food and supermarkets. In response to the interest in green living, there has been a resurgence of gardening through the “slow-food” movement.

Books such the 100-Mile Diet, in which the authors commit to only eating food grown within a 100-mile radius of their home, are part of a growing literary movement extolling the benefits of knowing where food was grown and how. If food is grown and eaten locally, our ecological footprint is reduced by cutting food miles. Because of the organic practices inherent with most community gardening practices, the quality of the soil is improved.

Additionally, the community gardens ensure a permanent and economical food supply while bringing people together and fostering a greater sense of community and stewardship of green spaces. These are benefits in addition to the healthy, organic vegetables – a section of the food pyramid woefully neglected by the average undergrad that the gardens produce.

Here at TCU, efforts are underway to create a community garden for students. Rachel Siron of the living learning community is leading up the beginning steps in the creation of a campus garden. Many students don’t have their own green spaces, and since Physical Plant is in charge of the grounds, TCU is taking gardening indoors. The project involves planting mini gardens out of Tupperware inside Carter Hall, proving you don’t need a big backyard to do a little gardening.

TCU is also encouraging students to look toward other community garden projects such as the Two Hands program through Elizabeth Anna’s Old World Garden.

Another alternative is developing not far from TCU in near the south side of Fort Worth. Joel Burns and Fort Worth South Inc. are working to turn an empty lot at Fifth Avenue and Maddox, currently owned by the city, into a community garden.

Development of any of these programs would be a benefit to our communities. Community gardens would give us access to affordable organic food and make our lives a little greener. Participants in community gardens would be less dependent on the global food supply and less affected by rising costs at the grocery store. All in all, community gardens are a good way to live a little greener, eat more affordably and live more sustainably.

Sarai Brinker is a graduate student from Levelland.