Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Students garden, educate, donate

The average college student generates 142 pounds of food waste per year, according to a program in Massachusetts called Recycling Works. Plattsburgh State and the Food Group, a PSUC club aimed at raising overall awareness of food in, are trying to reduce this statistic.

The Food Group looks at where it comes from and where it goes.

“The harvest we have is amazing, and we want to teach more people about what it is,” club treasurer Kelly Martin said.

“We’ve donated almost 300 pounds of fresh vegetables from our garden to JCEO,” Martin said.

The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity was created in 1966 and is Clinton County’s official anti-poverty agency. JCEO distributes produce in the region through Franklin County’s Food Shelf, and consumers are provided with locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

The PSUC garden produces beans, kale and more than 25 other crops. The garden is located behind Sibley Hall, near the rugby field.

“It has a picnic table and a gazebo. It’s really pretty,” Martin said. “There are sunflowers everywhere. It’s a great place to go and relax.”

Head of the garden and communications major Jason Ingraham said, “I had never gardened before, and when I came in, I was told I was going to have help.”

However, Ingraham had to teach himself how to garden using an outdated 2013 binder over the summer.

There are 14 individual plots available for community members, alumni and students who stay in the area over the summer. Ingraham said the group has had trouble affording some of the transplants, fertilizer, hay, fencing and gardening supplies.

In the past, Cook and Gardener, the garden center on Tom Miller Road, has donated 60 tomato plants, which added to their 30 plants.

Ingraham had only heard about the club’s black-bean brownies when he was approached by Martin to tend to the garden over the summer.

Ingraham said he was one of the few working the garden over the summer.

“Those 60 tomato plants got planted into the ground, but they didn’t get taken care of,” he said.

Ingraham said the donation didn’t go to waste, but it wasn’t nearly as productive as it could have been if there was more than one person working in the garden. Even though he didn’t have help, the group broke the record for how much has been donated, which was more than 250 pounds of produce.

“Imagine what would happen if more people were involved,” Ingraham said.

Ingraham said the Food Group has had a lot of involvement with conservation, environmentalism and sustainability.

“Of all the people to come in without any idea of what’s going on, I know I’m the one who can shake it up a little bit,” Ingraham said.

He said there needs to be more to the garden itself. He said a sign-in book, a poster with how much they’ve donated and a mission statement need to be added in order for there to be less vandalism to the garden. He also said University Police suggested vandalism and stealing would decrease if there was a fence added.

“We don’t need a fence. We need information,” Ingraham said. “I really think if we’d have more information, people wouldn’t vandalize it.”
He said faculty have similar reactions when they visit the garden: What class is this part of?

“It’s not part of a class, and a lot of people think it should be,” Ingraham said. “It already is great, and it could be even greater if it got some extra attention.”

Martin is currently involved in the Food Recovery Network as part of the Food Group, which was added to PSUC when she discovered the YouTube video during her sophomore year. The Food Recovery Network is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America.

“I saw it in my news feed and thought it was really interesting. I wondered if I can have this on campus,” she said.

The program aims to unite college students on campuses to fight food waste and hunger by recovering perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from their campuses and communities. The program also aims to donate these foods to people in need.

Last week, during Clinton Dining Hall’s Oktoberfest, Martin talked to the head chef and asked if there was going to be any extra leftovers. They gave the group 500 pounds of bacon for the Food Recovery Program.

“This semester, we’ve been doing warm lunches at Clinton. We donate a tin or two to Trinity Church’s Soup Kitchen on Wednesdays,” Martin said.

The club also wants to focus on composting, which is already a part of the dining hall. Martin said the dining halls are told what to compost.

The Food Group holds events throughout the semester to educate and inform the campus community about food.

“We garden. We have cooking classes. This club is whatever you want it to be. If you’re interested in food, then this is for you,” Martin said.

Email Kavita Singh at

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