Food undoubtedly brings people together, and the USF Community Garden reaps and sows for the greater community. Through the efforts of students and faculty, this urban gar- den cultivates fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that ultimately makes its way to the table at the free community dinners at St. Cy- prian’s and the campus farmstand.
Students in the Community Garden Out- reach class harvest fresh produce from the garden and integrate it in the dishes they
cook, while also using donated, leftover produce they’ve gleaned from local farmer’s markets. The only ingredients they buy are usually the grains, such as rice and pasta.
It’s not often that you can find urban schools with gardens that provide gardening and cooking classes. “It’s about the commu- nity that it creates that I think is very special. Everybody gets to know each other really well because together they’re gardening, cooking, and talking,” says Professor Rachel Lee who teaches USF’s garden outreach class. “Besides how great is it to be able to cook your own food and to know where it’s coming from?”
The strong sense of community is visible at the free vegetarian dinners at St. Cyprian’s, which happen on the first Thursday of the month. Last Thursday, an array of individu- als filled the community tables, and everyone was inviting, especially the students who were serving the food.
According to Lee, the demographics of those who attend the dinners are a mix of people from the city. “[There are] people coming off from work nearby, students, and the homeless–and this is really their only meal of the day. You see regulars.”
Last week’s dinner featured fall foods such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin bars and cookies. Usually a lot of the greens and herbs from the garden are used, as well as the flowers to decorate the space. Ev- erything is prepared by the students, and class time is spent planning each dish.
“It’s really unique because it’s free food but its also fresh local produce,” said Lee. “That’s the part that is really rare because it’s food from our garden and from the lo- cal community.
As for the campus farmstand, which can be found during dead hour the second Thursday of each month in Gleeson plaza, meals made solely from garden ingredients are offered for those who cannot attend the dinners offered at St. Cyprian’s.
Community Garden Outreach is a service learning class under the urban ag- riculture minor, but any student can join. Sophomore Anna Koutelas is a marketing major but is thinking of studying urban agriculture after being in the class. “What I like about this class is that its more of a community rather than just a class at USF,” she said. “I don’t think there are any other classes that are community-based. The [Community Garden Outreach] class is the most inspirational part of USF because you cook together and you cook for people in this neighborhood who don’t even go to USF.”