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.

UIndy artists collaborate for ‘Empty Bowls’ fundraiser

UPDATE: Per recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), this event has been canceled. Visit events.uindy.edu for updates.

Empty Bowls - lunch for a good cause

Empty Bowls is an internationally recognized grassroots movement by artists around the world to care for and feed the hungry in their communities. This month, the experience is coming to the University of Indianapolis for the first time!

The concept is simple; participating artists create and donate bowls, then serve a simple meal. Here’s how it works:

  1. Visit the Schwitzer Student Center on March 26 for lunch.
  2. Choose a handmade ceramic bowl to take home with you.
  3. Fill that bowl with your choice of soup.
  4. Make a suggested minimum donation ($10 for UIndy students, $20 for all other guests) *CASH ONLY
  5. Enjoy!

100 percent of the proceeds from this event will benefit Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. 

Three hundred ceramic bowls are being created by Department of Art & Design Assistant Professor Barry Barnes, current and former UIndy ceramics students and UIndy High School Day participants.

Empty Bowls, students making ceramics

See a bowl you like? Show up early on March 26 to make your selection!

An illustrated cookbook created by Department of Art & Design Assistant Professor Randi Frye and students in her creative digital practice classes will also be sold during the event for $20. *CASH ONLY

Empty Bowls cookbook

The cookbook features 80 recipes. University of Indianapolis faculty and staff were asked to contribute recipes that the students could use to work with, so a large portion of the recipes are from the Greyhound community.

Empty Bowls illustrated cookbook


Learn more about the event, taking place on campus Thursday, March 26

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

‘Packing away hunger’ on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

University of Indianapolis students, faculty, staff and their families packed 55,000 meals for people in need today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. About 300 volunteers participated in the University’s annual “Pack Away Hunger” event to package the meals, which will be distributed to Indianapolis-based organizations serving families in need.

About 300 volunteers helped "Pack Away Hunger" in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More than 50,000 meals were prepared & distributed to Indianapolis-based organizations serving families in need.

Posted by University of Indianapolis on Monday, January 21, 2019

Pack Away Hunger works to battle hunger in Indianapolis and all over the world. The focus of Pack Away Hunger is to provide nutritious meals for families. Each Nutri-Plenty™ meal that is produced provides vitamins and minerals, and contains a healthy mixture of rice, soy, vegetables and flavorings.

Service dog training program builds community connections for UIndy professor

Kathy Martin, left, with Koontz and one of her physical therapy clients.

Kathy Martin, left, with Koontz and one of her physical therapy clients.

Helping people with disabilities live a better life is the goal of many physical therapists. Kathy Martin, professor in the Krannert School of Physical Therapy, has found a unique way to enhance that mission by training service dogs.

Martin, who has served in several leadership roles within the Krannert School of Physical Therapy since joining the University of Indianapolis in 1999, started volunteering in 2017 to “furlough” service dogs in training through the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN). Since then, she has furloughed five dogs, with another canine due to arrive in August.

The ICAN program works with inmates at three Indiana prisons (Pendleton, CIF and Indiana Women’s Prison) to train the dogs. Because a dog cannot be fully prepared for service in prison, they go on “furloughs” with a trained ICAN volunteer like Martin. She works with each dog for up to four weeks at a time in a real world environment. She then sends a detailed report back to ICAN.

“One key part of the furlougher’s job is to help the dog learn how to be invisible in public. Another significant part of what I do is public education, both about ICAN specifically and how to interact with a service dog in general,” Martin explained.

Once the dog completes training successfully, ICAN places the canine with a client, who could be a child or an adult living with a disability.

As a dog lover who lost her own pup in 2016, Martin said ICAN’s furlough program made perfect sense. Although it can be an intense four weeks, the short time frame allows Martin flexibility. She not only enjoys spending time with the canines-in-training, but also talking about ICAN’s mission and the positive impact on clients as well as their inmate handlers, who learn communication skills, patience and empathy.

“Dogs feed my soul and I need to be around a dog every once in a while,” Martin said. “I also got involved because as a physical therapist, I have personally seen the life-changing work these dogs do.”

Martin provided the example of a kindergartner with cerebral palsy who was unable to sit on the floor at circle time with the other children. In his wheelchair, he was two feet above the other students. His first service dog, which was trained to prop up the boy as he sat on the floor, changed all that.

“With his dog, this boy was able to join his peers on the floor at circle time. As a physical therapist, no matter how good I am, I was never going to be able to give this child the independence and ability to join his friends that the service dog gave him,” she said.

Martin said she has found synergy between training service dogs and her professional work as a pediatric physical therapist, where her goal is to help a child and the family maximize the child’s potential. As a physical therapy educator, I also get to help my students understand the role of service dog for their future patients.

“Sometimes I accomplish that with the actual therapy I do with the child, or it may come through what I teach the parents/caregivers to do. Helping to train a service dog to assist someone with a disability is very similar. It is providing the tools a person needs to be more engaged in life,” she explained.

Martin worked with Koontz for several weeks in 2018.

Martin worked with Koontz for several weeks in 2018.

Martin’s most recent furlough was a dog named Koontz, who is now back with his handler at the Indiana Women’s Prison. Named for the Howard County Deputy Carl Koontz who was killed in the line of duty in 2016, Martin said training Koontz was a unique experience.

“It is very special to have the Koontz name attached to an ongoing effort to serve and protect. Of all the dogs I have had, Koontz was the hardest to say goodbye to. He is calm, confident, and focused. He just loves to work and works very hard to get it right. From my detective friend who knew Carl, she said he was the same way. Koontz will be an amazing service dog and will totally change someone’s life. I felt honored to get to be along for the part of the journey!” Martin said.

Learn more about ICAN

Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@uindy.edu with your campus news.

UIndy 500 – IMS Camaro spotted on campus

CamaroA taste of the 500 Festival arrived on the University of Indianapolis campus this week in the form of a Chevrolet Camaro. The bright orange harbinger of the Indianapolis 500 is no ordinary sports car, though.

President Rob Manuel was driving one of 50 Festival Event cars to help celebrate the Month of May. Faculty, staff and students flocked to see the Camaro Hot Wheels® 50th Anniversary Edition convertible. (And no worries if anyone spotted University of Indianapolis Police Chief David Selby’s flashing lights – he was in on the stunt!)

Since the 1960s, the fleet of Camaros has been turning heads around central Indiana during the Month of May as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gears up for the Indy 500 at the end of the month and other exciting events throughout May. The 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is scheduled for Sunday, May 27.

“The University of Indianapolis is thrilled to be part of this long-standing tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said President Manuel. “We’re proud of our IMS connections and the opportunities they provide for UIndy students.”

Lauren Bryant ’18 (biology & psychology) is one of 33 women representing the 500 Festival Princess Program for 2018, a group that set a 60-year program record for the highest cumulative GPA. The Honors College graduate and Greenfield native will attend Indiana University School of Medicine in the fall.

Another Greyhound alumna, Madi Kovacs ‘18 (psychology & pre-occupational therapy) represented the 500 Festival Princess Program in 2017. Her role, which involved conducting outreach programs with children, connected to Kovacs’ long-term career goal of becoming a pediatric occupational therapist.

In May 2017, as downtown Indianapolis welcomed thousands of race fans, the talent of Katherine Fries, art faculty at the University, was showcased on the Indianapolis ArtsGarden. Fries was one of five local artists commissioned to create signs for the Month of May, connecting the city’s thriving arts culture with the historic racing event.




Related: Greyhound alum Adam Henze, official poet of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, recites his winning entry

Volunteerism lays groundwork for teaching career

Erika Hoffman leads tripYou never know when saying ‘yes’ to a volunteer opportunity on a whim can help determine what you’ll do with the rest of your life.

Erika Hoffmann ‘21 (elementary education, with concentrations in mild intervention and reading) started volunteering at Creekside Elementary School in 2016, when she was a senior at Franklin Community High School.

At the time, she had no intention of becoming a teacher, but after a few months working with the kids, she discovered how much she enjoyed helping them learn and grow.

I was at Creekside every single day for a few hours,” she said. “One of my main goals in life is to help others, and I realized that the classroom is where I am most comfortable and where I feel like I am changing lives.”

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“It’s those little moments when a kid has been struggling with something and then you explain it in a different way and their face just lights up because they finally understand it – that’s when I know I’m doing something right.”

When Hoffman transitioned to the University of Indianapolis, her previous volunteer experience and strong relationships at Creekside continued to pay off: she was invited by Sarah Records, a first grade teacher at Creekside, to come back and see how the beginning of the year works from a teacher’s standpoint.

“Student teachers usually come into a classroom that is already running, rules are in place, and expectations are set,” Records said. “You don’t get to see how all of that is created or built, so for her to be with me on day one and see how those routines are established was really good for her.”

Hoffman is in the classroom with Records about three days each week, leading small group instructions, pulling kids for remedial help, aiding in testing sessions, and building relationships with the kids.

“I’m only a freshman and have taken just a few elementary education classes,” she said. “I truly feel that I have gained most of my knowledge and experience from being in Creekside on a regular basis. The hands-on experience is giving me the best opportunity to learn.”

Hoffman’s networking skills are also creating new opportunities for partnerships between the University’s School of Education and local schools. At Hoffman’s suggestion, Records brought a group of 105 first-graders to campus for a tour in April 2018.

Hoffman tripKids from Records’ class leapt off the school bus and threw themselves into Hoffman’s arms, vying for her attention and shouting excitedly while she tried to instill order on the squirming mass of students.

The kids were divided into three groups, each led by education students, including Hoffman. They visited the Krannert Memorial Library, the Schwitzer Student Center, and an elementary education class, where they participated in an activity with future educators and gave their opinions of what makes a good teacher.

“Getting children acquainted with the idea of attending college gives them a goal and something to look forward to after high school. It gives them a ‘when I go to college’ not ‘if I go to college’ mentality,” Hoffman said.

IMG_1681 (1)Records says she’s already started thinking about how to make the trip even better next year.

“Given what I saw from the students selected to lead us, and with the interaction and communication I have had with [UIndy faculty], I would love to continue working with UIndy and its education department.”

She’s also excited to continue mentoring Hoffman toward a career as a teacher.

“Erika has such a big heart and really cares about the kids both in and out of the classroom.  These skills are the basis of being a good teacher – investing in kids, building relationships, and nurturing them to be better versions of themselves.  I have no doubt that Erika will make a great teacher one day!”

Learn more about School of Education programs at the University of Indianapolis.


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.

University of Indianapolis honors legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

kennedykingstoryThe University of Indianapolis is a proud partner of the Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative, which is organizing events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, and his lasting legacy.

The Initiative was established to elevate and preserve the values and legacy of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by raising awareness, provoking thought and inspiring action to eliminate division and injustice. April 4, 2018 will mark 50 years since the loss of Dr. King, and Robert F. Kennedy’s historic Indianapolis speech.

The University’s Office of Equity & Inclusion has been working closely with the Initiative with the goal of becoming a catalyst to move conversations and action forward in Indianapolis.

“As a higher education institution, the University of Indianapolis serves as a model for social justice, a think tank for social consciousness and a space for intellectual discourse and debate. As such, we are uniquely positioned to help convene conversations that extend the work of Dr. King and others who have fought tirelessly for the inclusion, equity, and equality of all people,” said Sean Huddleston, vice president for the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

University of Indianapolis students will be volunteering at events throughout the city this week.

See all events here.

On April 3rd, for National Service Recognition Day, the University will join communities across the country to host the annual AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps National Service Day Recognition Luncheon, sponsored by the Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative and the Mayor’s Office. The Deputy Mayor will attend on behalf of the office, and President Robert L. Manuel will provide remarks. The luncheon will be held in UIndy Halls B & C in the Schwitzer Student Center at the University of Indianapolis.

Off-campus events:

April 3: A Ripple of Hope
5:30 p.m.: Reception, 7 p.m.: Screening, 8 p.m.: Panel

Eugene And Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 West Ohio Street

This acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Don Boggs sheds light on the fateful night of April 4, 1968 in Indianapolis. If you’ve seen this definitive take on this historic moment, now is the perfect time to revisit the powerful true story. If you’ve never seen it, now you can. Enjoy a pre-film reception and the film,  A Ripple of Hope (2008, 55 mins.) — followed by a panel discussion.

April 4: Still We Reach: Community Reflection & Conversation
10:30 a.m.
Landmark For Peace Memorial, 1702 N Broadway Street

Congressman, author and civil rights pioneer John Lewis joins with Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and daughter of RFK, and other national and local dignitaries, for reflections on the lasting influence of these two men.

April 4: Still We Reach: KKMI 50th Commemoration Ceremony
5:00 p.m.
Landmark For Peace Memorial, 1702 N Broadway Street                    

Join national and local dignitaries for the official commemoration event, featuring songs, remarks and remembrances by civic leaders, religious leaders, artists, and more.

*Tickets to both 50th anniversary commemoration events on April 4 are sold out. You can live stream the 10:30 a.m. event from any computer or mobile device using this link: http://ow.ly/FTqa30jgrY0

UIndy Launches Full-Tuition Scholarship Program for Christel House Academy Students

The University of Indianapolis has launched a new full-scholarship program for graduates of Christel House Academy South, further strengthening a longtime partnership between the two learning centers.

Christel DeHaan Academy students enjoy a meal and ballgame during Pack the House night, and were recognized on the floor during a time out in the men's game on Thursday, Feb 16, 2017. The students have the opportunity to get fully paid tuition scholarships to UIndy. (Photo by D. Todd Moore/University of Indianapolis)

Christel DeHaan Academy students were recognized on the floor during a time out in the men’s game on Thursday, Feb 16, 2017. (Photo by D. Todd Moore/University of Indianapolis)

The program, launching in the Fall of 2017, includes two components: one covering full-tuition costs to attend the University of Indianapolis and another providing a room-and-board scholarship for up to 10 students. Eligible students must have successfully completed dual credit courses taught by University professors at Christel House.
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