AMES, Iowa –This is the best time of the year to enjoy the fruits of your labor from backyard gardens. For a group of students at Iowa State University, they aren't the ones eating the produce they grow.
Michelle Aderhold is on a bit of a scavenger hunt. She said, "Sometimes it's hard to find them."
She's a sophomore at Iowa State University, spending her summer in the garden. "This is the student Dietetic Association Garden," she said.
It's located on campus by the 4H Outreach Extension building. About 15 students take turns watering, pulling weeds, and picking the produce. Senior Jenna Roeding said, "The main big vegetables we're bringing in are the cucumbers and the zucchini, and we're about 40 pounds with each of those. We have 45 pounds of tomatoes, 18 pounds of peas."
The student volunteers collect the produce from the garden each day. They take it to Food at First, a non-profit in Ames where the chefs are able to incorporate that food into their daily meals. Director Chris Martin said, "They come in and iron chef. They find out what they have two hours before the meal is going to be served and they use what's there."
He continued, "We serve a community meal 7 days a week with no questions asked. All the food is donated, and donations like this add up."
This is the second year for the dietetics students to take on the garden. They have tripled production so far thanks to a practice called square foot gardening. Senior Susie Roberts said, “We mapped out specifically where we're going to put zucchini, cantaloupe, broccoli, tomatoes, etc., with research from Iowa State Extension office that helped us know how many seeds to plant in each square foot of the respective plots."
Aderhold has learned a lot this summer, which she hopes helps her in her future career as a dietitian. She said, “I'd really like to work with community outreach programs and helping at risk, low-income families, working on a community garden would be really helpful for me to take forward in my future career."
It cost about $300 to get the garden started. The students are already planning to do it next year.
The produce that isn't used in the Food at First meals, is put in the organization's grocery distribution program, which serves about 350 families a week.