Compost garden could alleviate food insecurity on campus

Photo courtesy of Megan Hale

By Megan Hale | Guest Contributor

As a Christian institution, the community of Baylor is called to love others, and an easy place to start is by loving the planet on which we live.

As college tuition continues to rise, students around the country are struggling with food insecurity, resorting to convenience and affordability at the sacrifice of sustainability and nutritional value. By implementing an on-campus compost and garden program, students would have easy access to fresh local produce.

According to an NPR article, college campuses are responsible for an estimated 22 million pounds of food waste across the country every year. Despite this enormous amount of waste, the College and University Food Bank Alliance found that one in five college students across the country struggles with low food security, lacking sufficient access to nutrition.

“I think there is a huge inconsistency in how we treat our food,” Made Harrell, Knoxville, Tenn., junior and former intern at Urban REAP in Waco, said. “As soon as it is out of sight, it’s out of mind. In the same way, a lot of people who don’t have access to fresh food are out of sight and out of mind. This is just an issue that is not on our radar.”

Baylor has already been working to address the issue of food insecurity by offering resources such as The Store and The Fridge. However, both these options lack fresh and nutritious choices, providing only shelf-stable items. By sourcing fresh produce on campus, I believe the garden project could partner with The Store and The Fridge to provide more natural and healthy products.

By implementing a compost system, the issue of food waste can also be addressed. Composting helps reduce organic waste from dining halls that cannot be donated to food banks or individuals in need. Composting would provide an ideal growing environment for the garden project, act as an educational resource for the Waco community and support the visual appeal and landscaping around campus.

“I feel composting is something that is so within Baylor’s reach,” Harrell said. “By investing in an industrial composter, Baylor could create hundreds of pounds of compost in a short amount of time. These composters not only process greens and vegetable scraps, but products like meat, carbs and dairy — pretty much anything.”

An on-campus garden, composting system and access to fresh food are great ways for the Baylor community to encourage students to live healthy lifestyles, promote sustainability and address food insecurity.

“The core reasons I care about environmental issues is first and foremost, as a Christian, I believe we are called to love the planet because it’s God’s creation; it’s something He has given us, and it’s something to glorify Him,” Harrell said. “A lot of environmental issues heavily affect people in lower socioeconomic groups. In scripture, we are called to love ‘the least of these and care for the orphans, widows and poor,’ and that is who these environmental issues are hurting right now.”

We are called to be good stewards of the Earth, using the resources we have been given to bless others. Implementing a compost system, creating an on-campus garden and providing nutritious options for students struggling with food insecurity may take time, but loving others is not a choice; it is a calling.