February 2, 2015 — Seattle University students delivered 40 boxes of homegrown produce through spring, summer and fall of 2014 to feed the homeless at St. James Cathedral Kitchen in Seattle. The students grew the food right in the university’s neighborhood as part of a campus initiative called "Food With Spirit."
"This is a great example of urban farming and how much food you can grow in such a small space," says Karen Price, Seattle University’s campus sustainability manager.
Janice Murphy, Seattle University’s integrated pest management coordinator, was instrumental in launching the program. While attending a meeting of Food and Faith, an interreligious group, Murphy was inspired to learn that various faith groups were growing and serving food to neighbors in need. "I felt we could do more in that direction at Seattle University, that we had the ability to contribute in a meaningful and organized way," she says.
Murphy began talking to some students about growing food to serve the poor. About a dozen joined the effort under the umbrella of the university’s Sustainable Student Action club. With Murphy serving as adviser, the group partnered with the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability and Campus Ministry, which helped connect the students to the meal program at St. James.
Starting small, the first batch of vegetables was grown in community garden plots on campus in spring and early summer and given to St. James. Meanwhile, Murphy was approached by a neighborhood organization with a small plot of land it was looking to develop into a community garden. It turned out to be a perfect fit, and students constructed four raised beds there. Outside of the new garden, students also worked to build raised beds for others in the community.
Murphy calls the Food With Spirit initiative "a small but very positive action in a complex world. With food security and justice a global issue, one of the cornerstones of sustainability is an investment in urban agriculture. For college-age students, in particular, this is important work. It's a tool for teaching others, a springboard for rethinking broken food systems, and an incubator for inventive ideas about food security for future generations."
For student Chris Johnstone, the most rewarding part of the project is "seeing people getting excited about growing food. I have heard so many people say, 'Wow, what I put into the ground is actually growing like magic!'" [Source: Seattle University]