Community Gardens work continues this fall

Fresh produce from the University of Indianapolis community gardens

Fresh produce from the University of Indianapolis community gardens

This summer UIndy students worked hard to nurture the community garden, as it played a critical role in helping the surrounding neighborhoods stay food-secure during the pandemic. Bronwyn Getts ‘23 (public health education & promotion) and Gavin Craig ‘20 (music) handled daily tasks like watering, weeding and pest control.

“The most fulfilling part of the garden is knowing that the seeds we put into the ground have grown into nutritious foods that feed members of the community in need,” Getts said. “This year we distributed over 500 pounds of produce to the Light of the World Church and the Villa Baptist Church,  both of which had community food programs.” 

The community gardens were launched in 2017 with the goal of bringing access to fresh produce to the surrounding neighborhood. The project is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network to provide health- and wellness-related opportunities to the Indianapolis southside. SoIndy has played an important role in the partnership, along with Community Hospital South and Purdue Extension.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are a key part of the project’s success. Last August, UIndy Social Practice Art students activated the gardens for a class project. During the past two years, garden interns have represented majors from across campus, including public health, environmental science, psychology and music. Gurinder Hohl, University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network partnership director, and Kevin McKelvey, professor of English and director of the Social Practice Art Program, are advisors for the community gardens.

McKelvey is proud of the garden’s progress. “We’ve been working the last year or two to improve the soil health and add infrastructure like drip-line irrigation, and now we’re seeing the results of that,” he said. “What were originally plans and proposals are now a reality with over 200 pounds of fresh produce each week that we deliver to Villa Baptist Church Food Pantry in the Bean Creek neighborhood. That weekly total includes almost 140 pounds of tomatoes, 40 pounds of cucumbers, and over 10 pounds each of onions and green beans, as well as radishes, beets, and peppers.”

McKelvey views the Community Garden as a learning lab, just like you’ll find all across campus. “The student interns and volunteers can use the information that they’re learning well into the future.”

The garden will continue to be worked this fall until the first frost, usually sometime in October, with harvests going to the food pantry at Villa Baptist Church, working in conjunction with associate professor of nursing Toni Morris’s Promoting Healthy Communities course.

“Many people started gardening during the pandemic, and this only underscores the need for fresh, local produce available to anyone,” McKelvey said. “We’ll continue with this work even when everything returns to normal.” 

“Gardens like ours are important because they allow the university’s students to work within their community and see how they can make an impact for those who need a little assistance sometimes,” Getts said. “It builds compassion and a sense of pride in the labor we do all summer while benefiting those in need.” 

“This garden has genuinely changed the way I see the world, my community, and myself.” 

 

UIndy community gardens help neighbors stay food-secure during pandemic

A partnership between the University of Indianapolis, Community Health Network and the South Indy Quality of Life Plan (SoIndy) is bringing fresh produce to our southside neighbors at a time when it is needed most.

See media coverage from WRTV and WISH-TV.

Fresh produce from the University of Indianapolis community gardens

Fresh produce from the University of Indianapolis community gardens

Organic produce grown in UIndy’s community gardens will be distributed to residents every week during the month of June at the La Luz del Mundo Church. Planning is underway to continue the produce distribution throughout the summer in collaboration with local pantries. University of Indianapolis students are working in the gardens as they learn about important health concepts such as food insecurity and community organizing. The gardens will also serve as a learning site for public health nursing students in the fall.

The community gardens were launched in 2017 with the goal of bringing access to fresh produce to the surrounding neighborhood. The project is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network to provide health- and wellness-related opportunities to the Indianapolis southside. SoIndy has played an important role in the partnership, along with Community Hospital South and Purdue Extension.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are a key part of the project’s success. Last August, UIndy Social Practice Art students activated the gardens for a class project. During the past two years, garden interns have represented majors from across campus, including public health, environmental science, psychology and music. Gurinder Hohl, University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network partnership director, and Kevin McKelvey, professor of English and director of the Social Practice Art Program, are advisors for the community gardens.

SoIndy is collaborating with La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) Church at 2842 Shelby St. to distribute fresh, organic produce from the gardens throughout the month of June. Distribution takes place every Wednesday from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. The no-contact distribution includes a hot meal and a week’s supply of non-perishable food items, in addition to produce from the community gardens.

File photo of the University Heights community garden (2018)

File photo of the University Heights community garden (2018)

Hohl said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem of food insecurity.

“With the SoIndy community already being a food desert, the need to provide safe access to food is critical,” she said. “That is one of the reasons that the planners of the community gardens have gone ahead with the planting of spring and summer vegetables—to provide access to fresh, organic produce.”

Any produce that is not distributed during the drive will be donated to local pantries.

Learn more about UIndy’s community gardens.

New community garden project at University of Indianapolis enhances healthy options for neighborhood

Community gardenWith gloves and shovels in hand, volunteers got to work on a community garden on the University of Indianapolis campus, with the goal of bringing access to fresh produce to the surrounding neighborhood. The UIndy and CHNw Community Garden (Serve360°) project is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network to provide health- and wellness-related opportunities to the Indianapolis southside.

The garden is located on the west side of the United Methodist Church at 4002 Otterbein Ave. From 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 20, volunteers from the University of Indianapolis, Community Hospital South, Purdue Extension and South Indy Quality of Life Plan cleaned nine raised garden beds, glued the bed’s cement blocks, shoveled and spread dirt, pulled weeds, and did some planting. 

“We know that social determinants, like a lack of access to nutritious food, can affect overall health and well-being,” said Priscilla Keith, Executive Director of Community Benefit for Community Health Network. “We are proud to work with our partners at UIndy to offer this pilot program which will not only provide access to fresh and affordable food; but educate students and those living in neighborhoods around the UIndy campus how to start and maintain their own gardens.  Our goal is to find ways to reach beyond our sites of care to impact the health and the quality of life of the communities we serve.”

Gurinder Hohl, who directs the partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network, said the project is highly focused on meeting community needs, including a planning committee that involves local residents. Hohl said food grown in the community garden will be available to community members and gardeners at no cost. While University of Indianapolis students will manage the garden for the first year, Hohl said community members are encouraged to take on leadership roles as the garden becomes a focal point for the neighborhood.

“The location of this garden was chosen based on its proximity to the proposed Red Line station on Shelby Street. The more you decrease access-related issues, the more people will get involved,” Hohl said.

Project planners hope to expand activities to include a farmer’s market, cooking classes, health assessments, musical performances and art displays.

“It’s about placemaking where you try to create opportunities for neighbors to mingle and have access and options related to food and health that they would not otherwise have,” Hohl explained.

The University and Community Hospital South are working in collaboration with the South Indy Quality of Life (QOL) Plan on the garden project, which ties into the Plan’s Health & Wellness initiative (and is one of 173 action steps identified by the Plan to create thriving households and healthy communities in eight neighborhoods on the Indianapolis southside). Michelle Strahl Salinas with the South Indy Quality of Life Plan explained that the Health & Wellness action team aims to bring healthier food options to residents, and to make sure they are accessible, affordable and locally sourced.

“The University of Indianapolis has been very intentional about working with the neighborhoods around the University. We believe that having UIndy as a lead and collaborating partner on our action teams brings us a knowledge base and diversity that we would not have otherwise,” said Salinas, who added that the QOL plan depends on volunteer and partner-led projects like the community garden.

South Indy benefits from fruits of UIndy faculty and student labors

The South Indy Quality of Life Plan (SoIndy) is a volunteer organization made up of community residents in eight neighborhoods, including University Heights surrounding the University of Indianapolis, working to bring better quality living to the area. Amie Wojtyna, assistant professor in public health and a University Heights resident, chairs the SoIndy Health and Wellness Action Team, which focuses largely on food insecurity.

“I got involved because I live in this community,” Wojtyna said. “Food insecurity is one of my areas of interest. Most of the SoIndy community is in a food desert.”

Wojtyna’s action team has been integral in bringing to life the community gardens at Bethany Lutheran Church. In addition to providing plots for neighbors to grow their own produce, much of the harvest from the gardens is donated to two local food pantries.

Sean Yeh ’18 (public health education and promotion), worked with SoIndy to help identify what kind of produce patrons of the food pantries were most interested in receiving. Yeh, who was a student of Wojtyna’s, collected input from 139 patrons of Servant’s Heart and Hunger, Inc. food pantries, as well as from Bethany Lutheran’s Learning Ministry. The top three vote-getters in Yeh’s survey were tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries. Participants also asked for cucumbers, onions, peppers, carrots, raspberries, greens, squash, eggplant and chiles.

Related: Free gardening classes begin March 12, 2019, at Bethany Community Garden

“This experience was really eye-opening for me,” Yeh said. “I was able to gain ‘real-life’ experience. Although I learned a lot in class, textbooks don’t teach you about the possible mistakes you could make or how to prepare for obstacles. There were many mistakes I made in this process and things I could have done better, but ultimately, I learned from them.”

Yeh points to some data collection difficulties that prevented the reporting of demographic information.

“Experiencing failure, especially when you are working for a good and real cause, really provides insight and experience that I will never forget,” Yeh said. “It will allow me to prepare and perform at a higher level the next time I do something like this.”

Other SoIndy action teams include Community Building, Connectivity, Education and Workforce Development, Housing, Madison Avenue Corridor, and Shelby Street Corridor.  

Both Wojtyna and Yeh encourage others to get involved in the SoIndy efforts. Several of Wojtyna’s students – both undergrad and graduate – have done projects with the organization, ranging from a one-time afternoon to a semester-long commitment.

“All in all, SoIndy is there to make Indianapolis a better place,” Yeh said. “There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you helped make a positive change and actually witness it.”

Written by Amy Magan, communications manager for the Center for Aging & Community and the College of Health Sciences.

“Little free pantries” expand Southside wellness initiative

Volunteers installed two "Little Pantries" near the University of Indianapolis campus in July 2018.

Volunteers installed two “Little Pantries” near the University of Indianapolis campus in July 2018.

Two food pantries near the University of Indianapolis campus will build community by encouraging donations and by providing residents with easy access to free food and other essentials. The “little free pantries,” funded by an INHP Early Action Grant Fund through the SoIndy Health & Wellness Action Team, are renovated newspaper distribution boxes that contain donated non-perishable items and toiletries. Community members are encouraged to “take what you need, give what you can.”

Project managers say while the pantries themselves may be small, they can make a big difference for families. According to 2015 data, nearly 32 percent of residents in the SoIndy geographic area are living in poverty.

“This project is a perfect example of the community coming together with our assets and resources to address a local need,” said Michelle Strahl Salinas, South Indy Quality of Life Plan director.  

The SoIndy Little Pantries, located in University Heights and Bean Creek neighborhoods are the latest example of the ongoing partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network to increase access to health- and wellness-related opportunities for Indianapolis Southside residents. Additional partners in the pantry project include the South Indy Quality of Life Plan’s Health & Wellness Action Team, Purdue Extension and the Garfield Park Art Center.

The partnership brought volunteers together to create the UIndy and CHNw Community Garden (Serve 360°) at 4002 Otterbein Street (near the University Heights United Methodist Church) earlier this year, providing nutritious produce for residents in the University Heights and Carson Heights neighborhoods. The SoIndy Little Pantries offer free staples such as rice and pasta to supplement the fresh vegetables from the garden, which are also available to residents at no cost.

Gurinder Hohl, who directs the partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Community Health Network, said the SoIndy Health & Wellness Action Team, which operates as part of the South Indy Quality of Life Plan, has played a significant role in developing and implementing solutions to address the various food insecurity-related issues identified in the needs assessment conducted from fall 2014 to spring 2016. Hohl, along with Amie Wojytna, assistant professor of kinesiology, and Rob Campbell, Director of Business Operations at Community Health Network, and Anye Carson, senior public health student at UIndy, secured in-kind support for projects such as the community garden.

“The concept of the community garden, as well as the little pantry, is based on the principles of placemaking. By beautification and infrastructure bolstering, the community develops pride, and this results in future investments to enhance the quality of living,” Hohl explained.

Salinas, who also manages the Garfield Park Farmers Market, said the combined garden and pantry projects are the next evolution of the South Indy Quality of Life Plan to address health and wellness – and residents are taking notice.

“Neighbors are starting to ask questions about how the garden works, so there is some anticipation growing,” she said.

The Community Garden provided the theme for the Center for Aging & Community’s Grand Camp in June, which brought grandparents and children together to learn about gardening and other activities. It will also be featured in the 2018 Harvest Ride on September 8, during which cyclists will stop at six gardens to learn about the impact of community gardens on surrounding communities.

Volunteers, including University of Indianapolis students, will manage the SoIndy Little Pantries, which were designed and painted by summer art camp students at the Garfield Park Art Center.

Social Practice Art cohort presents second retrospective at Tube Factory

SocialPracticeArt600INDIANAPOLIS – The University of Indianapolis is celebrating student work from the Social Practice Art master’s program with a retrospective event beginning Friday, August 2, 2019, at the Efroymson Gallery at Tube Factory Artspace. 

The second cohort has initiated numerous socially engaged projects around Indianapolis while examining such issues as pollinators and sustainability, aging in place, and human trafficking. 

The retrospective will include creative work from throughout the program, and the show will include interactive elements like listening stations, participatory art, and other projects attendees can take home.

“This year, students have intensely focused on Indianapolis and its neighborhoods,” said Kevin McKelvey, program director and founder. “Beyond place, students have tackled bigger social issues in their creative work and found connections and inspiration across the state.”

What: Masters Retrospective: Social Practice and Placemaking
When: August 2-16
Opening Reception: August 2, 6-10 pm
Closing Reception: August 16, 5-7 pm
Where: Efroymson Gallery at Tube Factory Artspace (1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, In 46203)
The event is free to attend & open during regular Tube Factory Artspace hours

Students will be available during the opening reception to guide visitors through the interactive parts of their installations, and those components will be available throughout the run of the show.  Another part of the retrospective is a short documentary on the movement practicum students completed with choreographer Rebecca Pappas. 

Eve Eggleston presents a series of social practice art projects to create community awareness of the plight of the pollinators. This recent body of work has involved artistic interventions with re-purposing refuse and upcycling at Rabble Coffee. Her thesis project is using beehives for education about urban agriculture, sustainability, and pollinator value at IPS 39 William McKinley and at Indy Urban Awareness Gardens. She is also creating pollinator hotels with the Green Team of Groundwork Indy.

Kindness AK has aligned her passions by exploring how placemaking can encourage healing-centered engagement through community building and self-reflection. Her creative work includes transformative discussions and affirmation mirrors, as well as research-based projects on human trafficking and a small town of black farmers in Indiana, Lyles Station. These projects all in one way or another narrate how to enhance or identify the already “existing power of resiliency” within self and/or community. 

Writer and memoirist Sarah J. Wilson has deepened her exploration of Indianapolis’ Eastside neighborhoods through her social practice and placemaking projects. She grew up in the area and continues to live there. This summer, she has worked on the Eastside to collect local history and artifacts, especially from youth and the aging population, to create interactive social practice projects to commemorate this history and to celebrate its future. 

During the closing reception on August 16, students will conduct their own graduation ceremony to celebrate the end of their exciting year of work. 

About the program
The Master of Arts in Social Practice Art is a one-year program with courses in social practice, placemaking, social entrepreneurship, and writing for nonprofits. The cohort brings together the talents of costume designers, photographers, painters, and other artists to create work of lasting impact that involves and engages the community. Many courses involve hands-on, immersive work in local places that have connected students to professional opportunities.  

About the University of Indianapolis
The University of Indianapolis, founded in 1902, is a private, liberal arts university located just a few minutes from downtown Indianapolis. The University is ranked among the top Midwest Universities by the U.S. News and World Report, with a diverse enrollment of more than 5,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students. The University offers a wide variety of study areas, including 100+ undergraduate degrees, more than 40 master’s degree programs and five doctoral programs. More occupational therapists, physical therapists and clinical psychologists graduate from the University each year than any other state institution. With strong programs also in engineering, business, and education, the University of Indianapolis impacts its community by living its motto, “Education for Service.” 

Carson Heights garden collaboration brings fresh produce to southside neighborhoods

Nothing says “summertime” more than a fresh-off-the-vine, homegrown tomato. Thanks to a group of UIndy staff, faculty, students, and volunteers, southside neighbors will soon be able to enjoy tomatoes and other produce grown in a new community garden just north of campus.

The Carson Heights garden is located on a half-acre of university-owned land on Standish Avenue and is the result of a collaboration between UIndy and several other organizations, said Gurinder Hohl, director of the UIndy-Community Health Network (CHNw) partnership.

“The garden is tied to the health and wellness strategy of SoIndy,” Hohl explained.

Community garden May 2019

The South Indy Quality of Life Plan (SoIndy) is a nonprofit comprised of community leaders from eight neighborhoods, including University Heights surrounding the University of Indianapolis, working to bring better quality living to the area. UIndy public health assistant professor Amie Wojtyna is the chair of the SoIndy Health and Wellness action team.

“Our goal is to create gardens that will provide access to affordable fresh produce,” Hohl said. “In addition, we plan to engage neighbors who want to learn how to create their own home gardens and how to incorporate healthy food into their diets.”

To achieve that, UIndy is working with garden partners including Purdue Extension, which is providing technical support; CHNw, which will offer free cooking classes to SoIndy neighbors, and Books & Brews South Indy, which will serve as a weekly distribution site for the produce grown at the Carson Heights garden.

Community garden 19 2

According to Hohl, this first year for the Carson Heights garden will be focused on amending the soil, making it healthy for growing produce. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, squash, and zucchini will be grown.

The muscle for the planting and harvesting in the production garden will come from UIndy English professor Kevin McKelvey’s “Urban Food and Farming” spring term course and from a group of TeenWorks volunteers who will be on campus in June.  

“I approach gardening and farming as a social, creative, and public practice,” McKelvey said. “My Spring Term students and I are making a place on these vacant lots that will serve as a learning lab for Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences and the university with numerous opportunities for community engagement, research and service learning. We look forward to collaborating with neighbors.”

In addition to distributing produce at Books & Brews, UIndy will purchase eggs at a low cost from the Hatch for Hunger program and distribute the eggs free of charge. This partnership was facilitated by Purdue Extension.

This is not the university’s first foray into community gardening. Last summer, Hohl oversaw the planting and harvesting at University Heights garden located west of the United Methodist Church on campus. The Carson Heights garden is an extension of that first garden and has greater capacity to make an impact on the health and hunger of the surrounding neighborhoods. Details about the days and times of produce distribution at Books & Brews are still in discussion. 

Related: Community garden installed near the west side of campus

Quality of Life Plan poised to enhance South Indy

The University of Indianapolis will play a key role in implementing a recently completed Quality of Life plan impacting south Indianapolis, the result of a collaboration between campus, community and nearby businesses that began in February 2015. The plan was revealed during a Dec. 13 campus celebration.

Plan developers engaged more than 400 surrounding residents and business owners. From new walkways and urban gardens to additional healthcare facilities, housing options and job initiatives, the plan cites several critical needs defined by area residents. History, tradition and community development were common themes during the public meetings and outreach by neighborhood associations and community groups to formulate a “shared vision” of life in South Indianapolis, which since has been branded as SoIndy (www.soindy.org).

UIndy hosted a celebration recently to unveil a Quality of Life plan for improvements in South Indy. Campus, community and businesses all contributed to the effort.

UIndy hosted a celebration recently to unveil a Quality of Life plan for improvements in South Indy. Campus, community and businesses all contributed to the effort.

“Ultimately, this is Our plan together, and we will carry it out together,” Tedd Grain, deputy director of LISC, told a large group of stakeholders at the UIndy Health Pavilion. “We are so excited about celebrating the unique vibrancy of South Indy, and the Quality of Life plan will foster that.”

The University of Indianapolis is considered an anchor for the region, defined by the Quality of Life plan as eight-square blocks mostly north of I-465, west to Bluff Road, east to I-65 and south of Raymond Street. Target initiatives include Thriving Households, Healthy Communities and Talent and Trades.

“Along with many of our neighbors and the surrounding business community, UIndy is committed to being a catalyst for positive change in south Indianapolis,” said UIndy President Rob Manuel. “This Quality of Life plan showcases the wonderful people and amenities that make up this unique area and provides a foundation for what see as our future.”

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