BLOOMINGTON — A project at Illinois Wesleyan University to address nutrition needs and healthful living is already bearing fruit — or, in this case, vegetables.
The IWU Peace Garden has provided Swiss chard to Clare House food pantry, and more veggies and greens are on the way.
When Clare House director Tina Sipula was asked by those involved in the garden project whether she could use produce from the garden, she told them, “I can move anything you can bring me.”
She called the offer “a welcome surprise,” saying “most of our folks don’t get fresh food.”
That’s one of the reasons behind the Peace Garden.
Associate professor Jim Simeone, chairman of the political science department, said, “This idea has been percolating for years.”
At a Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration, food and social justice was the theme, and student embraced the garden concept.
The garden is planted on land leased from Immanuel Bible Foundation near the university’s sports practice fields. About a half acre of the land is able to be cultivated, and about one-third of that has been put into production, organizers said.
Senior Danny Kenny, one of three students working on the project, said 20 varieties of tomatoes have been planted, along with green peppers, potatoes and herbs. Beets, carrots and pumpkins will be ready in the fall, he said.
“It’s really exciting because there are essentially infinite possibilities for what we can do with it,” Kenny said.
In addition to providing food to Clare House, the garden will provide potatoes to the campus food service contractor, Sodexo, in a nod toward the local foods movement.
Longer range plans include creating a campus farmers market, delivering fresh vegetables to residents of Bloomington’s west side and getting nearby schoolchildren involved in growing their own food.
“The most important word in ‘community garden’ is ‘community,’” said Ryan Dyar, a junior working on the along with senior Alex Monson and Kenny.
All three are involved in the Peace Fellows program at IWU, which encourages students to work in areas related to peace, conflict resolution and social justice. They are working under the guidance of Simeone and Action Research Center Coordinator Deborah Halperin, but Simeone said, “students have taken the lead on this.”