Campus gardens helping out during pandemic
MILWAUKEE _ Gardeners at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are digging in to help out the UWM Food Center and Pantry. With campus closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, students, faculty and staff who rent plots on campus couldn’t put out their tomatoes, beans, carrots and other vegetables this summer.
So instead, a small team working with the Campus Sustainability office is planting and caring for the plots, with all the fresh produce going to the UWM Food Center and Pantry, according to Kate Nelson, chief sustainability officer.
The team started planting when the rain let up the week of May 18. Nina Hartwig, a junior who works with the sustainability office, had already given some vegetables a head start in her apartment.
The fresh produce will be welcome, said Quincy Kissack, assistant director of Student Association Professional Staff, who directs the food pantry. The pantry, which is open one day a week, is serving about 170 people every week. That compares to around 150 a month before campus closed. More than 1,500 people have received food bags since the campus closed, she added.
Finding vegetables and fruits is becoming more challenging. “Many grocery stores have limits on canned foods (especially fruits and vegetables), and we aren’t allowed to exceed them,” Kissack said. “We’ve gotten creative, but having fresh produce from the campus gardens means that our patrons will have a consistent source of nutrition.”
The campus gardens have a long history at UWM.
Victory gardens sprouted on what is now the UWM campus during World War I and II, flourishing on the field where Engelmann Stadium now stands.
The UWM Food and Garden Club and the Office of Sustainability brought campus gardens back to UWM in 2011, some six decades after the end of World War II. Fifty raised beds were installed outside the Physics Building, 1900 E. Kenwood Blvd. that year, and additional gardens were established near Sandburg East, 3400 N. Maryland Ave., in 2012. The gardens have served individual gardeners and UWM restaurant operations, as well as for student curriculum and research.
“Our campus gardeners have laid the groundwork over the past few years,” said Nelson. Without their hard work and care of the soil, we wouldn’t have these gardens to make use of now when the need is so great.”