Newswise — Old Westbury, N.Y. (December 19, 2013) — New York Institute of Technology health sciences students and faculty tasted the fruits — and herbs and vegetables — of their labors recently as they harvested, cooked, and enjoyed the inaugural bumper crop from the university's new community garden.
The garden is a hands-on venture that allows for interdisciplinary service-learning and real-world nutrition and health lessons, according to organizers. Many colleges across the country have installed community gardens as part of sustainability plans. In NYIT’s case, the garden also may soon include two new components: a link with local seniors who may volunteer and work alongside students and some outdoor amenities courtesy of the School of Architecture and Design.
For now, three raised beds with cold frames serve as an outdoor classroom of sorts. Clinical nutrition students spent hours last September learning about the benefits of organic gardening, reducing the carbon footprint through locally grown produce, and how to install and care for vegetables all year long. They maintained the garden throughout the fall as part of the course requirements.
Farah Faour, a sophomore who joined her classmates, professors, and the NYIT Bear mascot to plant tiny seedlings of kale, Swiss Chard, radishes, lettuce, scallions, and herbs, said she never gardened in the past but was happy to participate. “I’m going to make a salad out of everything,” said Faour. “Maybe this will get students to understand there are alternatives that are healthy to eat.”
By November, the seedlings had grown so high that they pushed against the cold frames. A student manager and two garden organizers harvested the crops and headed to the Student Activity Center where an NYIT executive chef helped others prepare and cook the bounty for a pre-Thanksgiving feast.
“That’s the first time I had kale that tasty,” said fourth-year student Priyanka Chacko, who helped sauté kale for a dish with pasta, sausage, and fresh parsley and chives. “By sautéing it, the nutrients stayed in the food.” Another student, Christine Jacob, noted that planting, growing, and eating the food as part of her nutrition class gave her a “real-life application” of her education. Jacob said she’s more likely to make her own dishes with healthier food as a result.
Moments after she enjoyed a plate of pasta and kale, salad, chicken with sautéed Swiss chard, and greens with white beans, student Shannon Blake said the project strengthened her on-campus ties with classmates. Blake said her gardening skills improved with lessons about raised-bed gardening, seasonal planting, and the process of thinning young seedlings. “And I learned a lot about bugs,” she added. “Cabbage worms – they’re nasty.” Plans for spring planting are underway. Assistant Professor Lorraine Mongiello said students are also working on a cookbook containing family recipes that use the herbs and vegetables harvested from the garden.
“This is a wonderful thing to start off on a small scale,” said Director of Food Services Pilar Visconti, who hopes to use some of the herbs and vegetables in campus meal preparations. If the beds are planted each season, the yield is expected to be more than 300 pounds of produce. “The students are going to love it – to know that the produce they’re having is grown fresh on the campus.”
About NYITNew York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has 13,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team. Led by President Edward Guiliano, NYIT is guided by its mission to provide career-oriented professional education, offer access to opportunity to all qualified students, and support applications-oriented research that benefits the larger world. To date, more than 95,000 graduates have received degrees from NYIT. For more information, visit nyit.edu.