Homecoming service day Oct. 1 to include food drive, garden expansion

Western Carolina University students, faculty, staff and alumni will participate in a food drive and Campus Kitchen Garden expansion project to combat hunger and food insecurity as part of the Homecoming 2008 Community Service Day.

Canned and packaged food will be collected from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1, on the lawn of A.K. Hinds University Center. Donations will benefit the Salvation Army of Western North Carolina, which serves clients in seven counties. Dog and cat food that is collected will be given to “Operation AniMeals,” a project of the Sylva-based Department on Aging.

Meanwhile across campus, Homecoming volunteers will build a fence and storage shed, and restore soil quality at the Campus Kitchen Garden near Hennon Stadium. Last year, the Center for Service Learning developed, with support from volunteers and the facilities management department, a garden that would provide an opportunity for students to help meet the nutritional needs of people in the community.

The center sent a group of WCU staff members and students to attend workshops and hands-on classes related to organic and sustainable agriculture at the 15th annual Organic Growers School Spring Conference held in Asheville in March. During the spring, a core group of 10 student volunteers spent time each week working in the garden creating rows, planting seeds, adding mulch and watering. Students in an Academic Success Program class continued those efforts during the summer.

The garden yielded mustard greens, kale, potatoes, onions, corn, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, peas, squash and tomatoes. Vegetables were donated to the Community Table, a Jackson County nonprofit organization that provides meals to residents of the community who need assistance.

MANNA FoodBank, a community partner with the WCU Center for Service Learning, reports that in Western North Carolina, about 68,000 people a year seek food assistance, with 20,000 seeking assistance each week.

For further information on WCU’s Homecoming Community Service Day, contact the Center for Service Learning at servicelearning@wcu.edu or (828) 227-7184.