Mike Mulvaney, Ph.D candidate in agronomy and soils and coordinator of the community garden, brought the issue of hunger into the local spotlight by speaking to students and faculty about Auburn’s food security and involvement with the community garden.
“We are trying to increase awareness of hunger,” said Claire Zizza, professor in nutrition and director of the four series hunger lectures. “I don’t think we realize food insecurity is in our community when it really is. We have lots of poverty stricken areas in Alabama that students could make a difference in.”
Mulvaney defined food security as an access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.
In 2007, food insecure households in the U.S. were at 11.1 percent and in Alabama insecure households were measured at 7 percent.
“Food insecurity with hunger is starting to skip meals or going hungry because there is no food in the house,” Mulvaney said.
Auburn chooses to battle against food insecurity by planting, managing and harvesting the community garden. The Auburn community garden is a single piece of land gardened by a group of volunteers with a common purpose — to donate the harvest to the East Alabama Food Bank.
The garden reduces food insecurity by providing fresh vegetables to the needy in our area.
“As an agriculturalist, I like to think we are producing and donating the healthiest kind of produce,” Mulvaney said. “We are donating local, fresh and more or less organic produce directly to the food bank.”
Right now the community garden is growing collards, mustard greens, hot peppers, okra, lima beans and pink eye purple hull peas. They plan to harvest sweet potatoes in another three weeks.
Surrounding businesses in Auburn contribute their resources to help reduce local food insecurity. Arriccia at the Auburn Hotel makes a pot of soup from leftover food to be distributed on Sunday mornings at the East Alabama Food Bank. Panera Bread donates its leftover bread to the food bank, and the Gnu’s Room supplies the community garden with old coffee grounds for soil fertilizer.
“Businesses are being squeezed, the food bank is being squeezed, everyone is being squeezed especially in these times, so we’ve just got to start thinking outside the box,” Mulvaney said. “It is all for a good cause. The community is coming together and saying there are people in my area who I could help. I love that we have this kind of volunteerism that is the great thing about these kinds of projects.”
The community garden offers a connection to the environment. People that have never planted a seed before come to the community garden to learn to grow food.
“People love planting a seed, weeding it, and three months later they come back to harvest it,” Mulvaney said.
Will McCartney, sophomore in civil engineering, attended the food insecurity speech to gain a perspective on community awareness and starting a community garden of his own.
“Mike’s speech was informative,” McCartney said. “I’m planning a trip to South America to help with agricultural production in the spring, and I’ve been stumbling along to try and find someone who knows what they’re talking about, and he did an excellent job.”
The community garden hopes to donate close to 2,000 pounds of produce to the East Alabama Food Bank this year.
To help plant, maintain or harvest visit the garden Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. or send Mulvaney an e-mail to be on the volunteer list at firstname.lastname@example.org.