April 24, 2024
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Gardening goodness: Harpur Fellows project addresses food insecurity

Plant seedlings Plant seedlings
Plant seedlings Image Credit: Pixbay.

For families struggling with homelessness, fresh vegetables and healthy eating may seem unattainable — a distant dream for another time, when life is on more stable footing.

A trio of Harpur College juniors — integrative neuroscience major Allison Trabold, biological sciences and Spanish major Gabrielle Safian and environmental science major Hannah Dwyer — teamed up for a Harpur Fellows project to address the issue.

Together, they created a community garden at the Family Service League Family Shelter in Suffolk County to provide food and herbs to its residents. The three received $4,000 for the project, which included both physical construction and educational elements.

Trabold, Dwyer and Safian became close friends during their first year on campus and share a love for giving back to the community.

“We all live relatively close together on Long Island, so we thought it would be a good idea to spend our summer together trying to make a difference,” Safian explained.

The problem: because of the pandemic, volunteer opportunities were scarce. So they decided to create their own instead.

The idea for their specific project struck them one day while they were walking back from dinner. All of them had experience gardening while they were growing up, and thought it could be an engaging way to give back. But they wanted to do something more to target food insecurity, leading to the partnership with the Family Service League, which empowers struggling families.

“After learning about some of the challenges they face with funding and lack of access and ability for residents to sustain a healthy diet, we came up with our community garden summer program that could provide the children and families with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the education to prepare them effectively,” Trabold said.

While they tackled a few obstacles along the way, the group’s project turned out to be a success. They built four new garden beds, a fence to keep pests out and two benches. They also planned weekly activities with children at the shelter, giving them the opportunity to learn about nutrition and have fun along the way.

The garden itself had a productive season, and was still producing strongly when the trio returned to campus in August.

The friends found the experience both highly rewarding and educational, teaching them the nuts and bolts of starting a project from the ground up. All of them would love to contribute to their communities in similar ways in the future.

Shorter term, Trabold and Safian plan to attend medical school, while Dwyer is currently investigating graduate programs.

“We are extremely grateful to have had such a wonderful experience and would like to thank the Harpur Edge office for this opportunity,” Dwyer said.

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