By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer
The Campus Kitchen at Baylor University (CKBU) plans to renovate their community gardens at Browning Square graduate student housing.
CKBU is picking back up with normal operations now after having to delay renovations for almost a year since COVID-19 hit, Andy Kim, Campus Kitchen garden manager, said. Returning to more normal to-dos, they will start off by making new garden beds to replace the current ones that are falling apart.
“The wooden beds we had earlier had been pretty rotten, kind of eroding down, and we used to plant a lot of vegetables. I remember we used to plant okra, bell peppers, onions, lettuce, cabbage, things like that, and the beds over time had so much wear and tear that it was getting hard to maneuver around to nurture the vegetables to grow,” he said.
Another garden manager, Seth Battad, said they are emptying and deconstructing the old beds right now to start fresh. He said they will also top the new cinder block with wood for aesthetics and for people to have somewhere to sit while working in the garden.
Recently, Student Activities approved CKBU to go ahead with meetings and events but will continue to wear masks and sanitize garden tools after using them. Battad said the three garden managers each have a one-hour shift every week which is when members can come volunteer.
After the gardens are cultivated, the food is used for meals the CKBU kitchen team makes and donates to nonprofits like Mission Waco Youth Center, The Cove, The Store and The Family Abuse Center, Battad said.
“Most of the food that we actually end up getting for our organizations we get recovered from the dining halls and local restaurants that we work with,” Battad said. “Before all the COVID stuff happening, I think in 2019, it was over 13,000 pounds of food that we ended up recovering from mostly on-campus dining halls. We also had Panera as one of our partners and the Caritas Food Bank.”
CKBU is a student-led organization, partnered with the graduate school, to teach members about food waste and alleviate hunger in the Waco community.
Kim said there are plots in the garden designated for residents at Browning Square to grow their own fresh food. CKBU gives them an orientation and tells them what plants they can grow to help with their independent growing.
The garden teaches volunteers about the food supply, Kim said, and self-sustainability in growing your own food.
“I think one of the main reasons why the garden section of Campus Kitchen is so important is because it really grounds how important food supply is in a community,” Kim said. “Students go to the dining hall every day, and they eat the salad or eat the food that they have, but they never realize how much effort it takes to actually grow the food that they eat or the freshness of the things that they eat as well.”
Additionally, Battad said CKBU deals hands-on with real issues in the community.
“I just really believe that food scarcity is a really big problem in both Waco and in the McLennan area,” Battad said. “Getting to learn more about the problems a lot of people are facing and getting to have an active role in trying to help that in the community is really what has driven me to continue with Campus Kitchen.”