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Planting a sustainable seed

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Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 9:00 pm

Gonzaga's Campus Kitchen will supplement meals with crops from its own garden by spring 2011 to take advantage of the benefits of homegrown produce. The construction of the plant bed and greenhouse took root at the start of the 2010-2011 school year. The project is nearly completed behind the Center for Community Action and Service Learning (CCASL) house.

"The beds and greenhouse will be a living garden," Emily Paulson, coordinator of Gonzaga's Campus Kitchen, said. "Fresh vegetables are not always possible to come by. It is a boon to be able to have locally grown, organic and fresh produce."

The Campus Kitchens Project, a national organization that provides free meals to the disadvantaged through student initiative, is based locally out of CCASL.

Businesses, such as Sodexo and Safeway, and Second Harvest Food Bank donate food, which is then cooked by Campus Kitchen staff in the Cataldo kitchen and distributed to needy residents through the YWCA, The American Indian Community Center, Catholic Charities, Cup of Cool Water, the Campus Kitchen Community Dinner, Crosswalk, and CCASL's Mentoring Programs.

Paulson estimates that nearly 3,000 meals are delivered monthly throughout Spokane.

The Campus Kitchen faculty planned the construction of a supplementary garden, but the labor force is composed of primarily student and community contributors.

After the garden idea received permission from the Gonzaga administration over the summer, a coalition of student groups petitioned GSBA for funding. Junior David Dunphy began advocating along with Gonzaga Environmental Organization and Gonzaga Outdoors Club members in September 2010. The endeavor garnered financial backing from Residence Life and the Rotary Club, among other groups, and building commenced.

Between September and October, community members, GU employees, students and alumni tilled land, constructed planting beds and framed the greenhouse. Despite an October cold front prematurely ending work, engineering students managed to erect a greenhouse structure, the beds were built and garlic became the first crop planted.

In the spring, volunteers will plant a variety of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, carrots, raspberries, strawberries, leafy greens and leeks.

As a laborer, Dunphy cited a quick transition from design to building and looks forward to continued success in the spring.

"This was one of the cooler GU projects I've worked on because it is so collaborative," Dunphy said. "The community is building a community garden for the community."

Though the garden's output will go entirely to the Cataldo kitchen, the effects of campus gardening aim to extend beyond just aid efforts.

Participant Bridget Desantis, Gonzaga's AmeriCorps representative, is hopeful that CCASL's project will continue "strengthening partnerships between our school and the community."

Emily Paulson sees the garden as a dynamic opportunity for student involvement, youth mentoring, local nutrition lessons and a general shift toward healthier, sustainable eating.

"The beds and greenhouse will be a living garden," Paulson said. "Fresh vegetables are not always possible to come by. It is a boon to be able to have locally grown, organic and fresh produce."

The CCASL house at 617 East Boone has more information on more volunteer situations.

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