SEED Wayne begins new season with support from Ford C3 grant

SEED Wayne begins new season with support from Ford C3 grant
Kat Krupsky waters the Warrior Garden

As the winter semester ends at Wayne State, student organization SEED Wayne is just beginning a new growing season. SEED Wayne is dedicated to building sustainable food systems on campus and in Detroit neighborhoods through teaching, research, community engagement and campus operations. Developing student leadership is a core objective of the program.

Last year SEED Wayne received $25,000 to help build sustainable communities as a winner of the 2013 Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3). As the organization kicks off a new year of programming, the Ford C3 grant is positively impacting multiple SEED Wayne projects.

Hazel Park neighborhood blooms alongside community garden
The Hazel Park community garden began in March 2013 as the result of a partnership between SEED Wayne and Wayne State Student Urban Planners (WSSUP). Sareen Papakhian, a third-year student in the master of urban planning program, was inspired to start an urban garden after attending a national conference on the topic. When the city of Hazel Park offered the use of a foreclosed plot of land in a residential neighborhood, she seized the opportunity.

Working with Joe Tangari, a fellow student in the master of urban planning program, Papakhian held a community meeting in the Hazel Park neighborhood. They recruited many enthusiastic volunteers, who helped build garden rows and spread the word about the project. “It’s really been a partnership between the community and the city,” said Tangari.

The garden had a successful first harvest, with volunteers taking home lots of fresh produce that is not always available in the city. Neighbors have been very supportive of the project, even those who do not work in the garden. “The neighborhood has respect for the land,” said Papakhian. “We’ve been told by the adjacent neighbors, ‘thank you so much,’ plenty of times.”

Thanks to the Ford C3 grant, SEED Wayne recently purchased a tool shed for the Hazel Park garden. They also plan to buy gardening tools and rain barrels. These investments show local residents that the garden has support and will be a long-term part of the community. Papakhian and Tangari are now exploring a partnership with Hazel Park schools to get young students involved in the garden. This year’s growing season kicked off with a community planting party on April 5.

Students teach classmates and community to eat healthier
SEED Wayne partners with the Public Health Student Organization (PHSO) to provide nutrition education on the Wayne State campus and in the community. In the past, the PHSO has helped SEED Wayne promote increased availability and consumption of fresh produce in Detroit neighborhoods underserved by grocery stores. “It’s important not just to say ‘eat fruits and vegetables’ but to make it feasible,” said Jasmine Vickers, a master of public health student and executive board member of the PHSO. The organization aims to reduce health disparities in the city, in part through nutrition education.

Last summer, PHSO members worked with SEED Wayne on the Healthy Eats Project at the Wayne State University Farmer’s Market. The project offered food demonstrations and a series of nutrition workshops for students, staff and community members, particularly low-income residents. The Healthy Eats Project also offered nutrition workshops at local senior living facilities in Midtown.

The PHSO currently is focused on providing nutrition education at community and campus events. The organization’s main expense is educational materials, particularly those from the USDA’s high-quality MyPlate curriculum. With the support of the Ford C3 grant, SEED Wayne and the PHSO can provide more take-home materials to participants. “We’re very adamant about having actual resources for people,” said Vickers. “It takes a whole community to be healthy.”

Students get healthy shopping at the Farmer’s Market
The Student Advantage Project was piloted during the 2013 Wayne State University Farmer’s Market, also with support from the Ford C3 grant. The Student Advantage Project offers Wayne State students the opportunity to purchase $10 worth of vouchers for fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market for only $5. The pilot project was a great success, with nearly 550 students purchasing $10,000 in vouchers.

The vast majority of Student Advantage participants reported eating more fruits and vegetables than before, eating less “junk food,” and cooking and eating more meals at home. Ashlesha Chaubal, a doctoral student in the biological sciences, said she started doing more of her grocery shopping at the Farmer’s Market because of the Student Advantage Project. She plans to take advantage of the program again this year. “I know people are looking forward to it,” said Chaubal. “It helps us get fresh produce at an affordable price.”

The Student Advantage Project also proved advantageous for produce vendors at the Farmer’s Market, who reported increased revenue ranging from 10 to 25 percent. Farmer’s Market vendors are local growers who come from Detroit and throughout southeast Michigan. The market serves as an important source of fresh, local produce for the Midtown community and will open on June 4.

Creativity grows through the Warrior Demonstration Garden
The Warrior Demonstration Garden is located on Wayne State’s campus next to the David Adamany Undergraduate Library. The garden is managed by Student Leaders for Urban Gardening and Sustainability, nicknamed SLUGS. The organization aims to create a student community centered around urban gardening. Senior psychology major Kat Krupsky, one of the leaders of SLUGS, said, “The goal is to provide a welcoming, healthy, safe environment for students to come and socialize but also get hands-on education about organic growing practices.”

With funding from the Ford C3 grant, SLUGS will purchase additional tools so more students can garden together this year. The group also plans to replace the Warrior Garden’s original pine-board beds, which have come to the end of their expected life span after six years. Krupsky and junior engineering major Jake Grobbel, a fellow SLUGS leader, have assembled design plans for constructing the new beds. The growing season in the Warrior Garden begins on May 2.Created in 2008, the demonstration garden provides a place for students to experiment and try new growing techniques. No prior gardening knowledge is required to join SLUGS. “You might fail one year, but then you have a chance to try again the next year. The cool thing about gardening is that you always get a second chance,” said Krupsky. SLUGS typically grows vegetables and sunflowers in the Warrior Garden. Students who help maintain the garden get to keep the organic produce they harvest.

Visit for more information on SEED Wayne.

(Posted May 2, 2014)


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