What used to be a shortcut to the Student Center from the parking spaces for people with disabilities and the Drop-In Center, now lies Montclair State University’s own community garden.
Vibrant hues of green have transformed the space as fresh produce has begun growing in the garden. Watermelon, eggplant, peppers, green beans and zucchini are just a few of the delicious fruits and veggies that are taking over the newly fenced in area beside the Student Center.
“The hardest part of setting up the site was physically setting up the site,” said Montclair State graduate Christopher Snyder, who currently works as a research assistant and helps run the garden. “There has been outstanding, overwhelming support from campus.”
The garden was created under a new organization on campus called Montclair State Campus Community Garden (MSUCCG), which helps to grow produce for the Red Hawk Pantry. The idea began in February 2018 and came to fruition in late May 2018. Snyder, along with others, were full-time students who took on the project because they saw the need for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Red Hawk Pantry.
Now that the pantry is supplied with fresh sustainably grown food, the goal is to reduce the food insecurity at Montclair State. Having non-canned produce available at the Red Hawk Pantry not only improves the quality of food that students receive but supplements in their nutrition as well.
“Food insecurity is something that I feel very strongly about,” Snyder said. “It’s something that I’ve been training to work in for my whole higher academic career.”
Snyder obtained his MBA in anthropology and has experience with food systems – how people obtain their food, get what they need and stay healthy. Much of his graduate work focused on food access and nutrition. He hopes that those who need to use the Red Hawk Pantry will benefit from the new community garden.
According to a recent 2015 study Montclair State conducted, approximately one in 10 Montclair State students face food insecurity once a day and about 15 percent of students are food insecure once a week.
Some students are not aware that food insecurity affects the lives of many of their classmates, like sophomore jurisprudence major Alex Lavrador.
Lavrador did not know that Montclair State even had the Red Hawk Pantry and was shocked that many students are food insecure.
“The community garden is a wonderful idea,” Lavrador said. “It’s an efficient way to stock the food pantry while also getting students on campus involved.”
In addition to supplying students with fresh produce, the community garden extends its outreach by donating food to Toni’s Kitchen, a food ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church located in Montclair.
Since the official start of the MSUCCG on May 21 to Aug. 31 to date, over 200 pounds of food has been donated. Various on-campus clubs like Montclair State Dietetics Organization, Environmental Club and Animal Activists have become involved with the garden.
“We had such a high response rate,” Snyder said. “We have shattered my goals. I was off by a mile.”
For more information on the Red Hawk Pantry, please visit https://www.montclair.edu/student-services/red-hawk-pantry/.