A group of about two dozen UNT Dallas Urban Agriculture students planted a variety of vegetables and herbs Thursday as the Community Garden, a partnership program with St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas, officially got underway.
The UNT Dallas students are taking the course Community Gardening. They will maintain the garden, located in a lot near the St. Vincent de Paul facility in Lancaster. The space will be used for an outdoor teaching lab, and when the crops are harvested, the students will donate them to the adjacent Jan Pruitt Community Pantry, run jointly by St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of Dallas and North Texas Food Bank. Life and Health Sciences professor Jerrod Tynes is leading the project.
The garden consists of 10 raised beds, and plans call for an additional 10 beds once Phase II rolls out. Phase I planting included carrots and radishes, a variety of greens such as collards, spinach and lettuce, as well as spices like cilantro, parsley, chives and rosemary. Vegetables such as kale and broccoli will be added during the next planting.
"These vegetables were selected by the students of the Community Gardening class as top options after they did individual and group research on crop-planting options for fall in North Texas," Tynes said. "The students took into consideration the aspects of the garden itself, such as sunlight, location and the community the food will be going to."
The Jan Pruitt Community Pantry serves residents in six zip codes. It has the capacity to serve more than 1,400 families per month. Many southern Dallas communities that surround UNT Dallas are considered to be food deserts, areas defined by the Center for Disease Control that lack access to whole foods that comprise a healthy diet. The goal of the Community Garden project is to supply the food pantry with raw fruits and vegetables, which can often be scarce in food pantries.
"It’s important because, first of all, as students, we’re connecting with the garden, and we’re coming out here not only for our class time, but we’re also very involved in it, and learning about soil, how in communities like this, there’s still hope for vegetation," said UNT Dallas junior biology major Paula Lucas. "And it allows for us to give back to the community, even in rough times like this, and giving back to the food bank is amazing because we’re giving back to the community and we’re also learning for ourselves."