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Community Garden Reports 8.2% Increase in Food Production

The University’s Community Garden, a field study project initiated by former Graduate student Sean Foran in 2010, experienced an 8.2% increase on top of their primary goal of 1,000 pounds of food grown, which was then donated to local organizations, this past summer.

Robin Mama, Dean of Social Work, has been involved with the Community Garden from the beginning.

“We had high hopes when we began the garden that it would be productive and would become a fully self-sustaining project. It is evolving on a natural course that many other community gardens take we just recently formed a Steering Committee comprised of gardeners who have been gardening on the individual side of the garden for the last one or two years and they will begin to help run the garden,” Mama said.

The Community Garden is supported by a diverse group of students dedicated to environmental stability.

The Environmental Club has planted two cherry trees in the garden and will continue to contribute to the garden in the future.

Additionally, Tau Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity with an active presence in the University, helped to build a shed and plant daffodils in the garden. Also, Dr. Pedram Daneshgar, Assistant Professor of Biology, brought his students to plant vegetables in the greenhouse, which were later relocated to the community plots, and made up a part of what was eventually donated.

This year, Caitlin Sprague and Jennifer Jervert, both Graduate Social Work students, will work as interns to the garden and take on a few different projects.

“I won’t say what these are now, you will have to wait and see,” Mama commented on the new projects. Soup D’

Shore, founded by Professor John Buzza’s Entrepreneurship class last spring, accepted donations from the Community Garden to support their dinners held every

Tuesday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at St. Lukes Methodist Church in Long Branch.

“We love the Community Garden and everyone involved in the process. The products are fresh, healthy and are being produced and donated for all the right reasons,” Buzza said.

In addition to the University’s Community Garden, Soup D’ Shore works alongside Shop Rite, Delicious Orchards, and Costco, as well as service organizations and local charities.

“Our patrons, upwards of 150 people each Tuesday, are not concerned with where our food comes from, only that they know they will get a full and well balanced, health meal every Tuesday,” Buzza said. Additional services under consideration that Soup D’ Shore can provide are tax filing, budgeting seminars, health and wellness, and social work advocacy, according to their website.

Some other recipients of the donations provided by the Community Garden were the Lutheran Church of the Reformation Food Pantry in West Long Branch, Ronald McDonald House in Long Branch, American Recreational Military Services in Eatontown, and the Long Branch Senior Center.

The Lutheran Church of the Reformation Food Pantry has grown from serving eight to 12 families per month to over 350 families within the past 15 years, according to their website.

According to Debbie Keszler, Food Pantry Coordinator, “The Community Garden’s donation enabled us to provide fresh vegetables during their growing seasons to families who wouldn’t normally be able to afford such nutritious, in season food.”

The Ronald McDonald House, whose goal is to create a home away from home for families of seriously ill children receiving care at nearby medical facilities such as the Monmouth Medical Center, benefitted from the Community Garden’s donations this fall. The produce was delivered right to their door and used for stew.

“Unsolicited donations like this really help us continue to serve the families who stay here,” said Camitha Whipple, house manager.

The Ronald McDonald House accepts monetary donations, encourages people to volunteer for cooking and gardening and office work, and hosts a pop tab collection for recycling.

American Recreational Military Services accepted food donations from the Community Garden to support families of deployed servicemen and women

Long Branch Senior Center, which offers programs including exercise, computer training, and medical screenings, accepted food donations from the Community Garden to put towards lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for homebound seniors, and goodie bags for visitors.

More food will be donated this month to other local organizations, a majority of which accept volunteers as well.

Students interested in getting involved with the Community Garden can download an agreement form from to obtain a plot for planting, join the mailing list, or stop by in person between Brookwillow and Beechwood Avenues.

According to Dean Mama, “There are many rewards from participating with the garden; basic rewards like learning about gardening and how plants grow, to how to care for a garden to how to build community around a garden.”