This past Sunday, May 5, Isla Vista debuted its newest community project with the Community Garden Grand Opening at the University United Methodist Church building on Camino del Sur.
The garden is sponsored by the UC Santa Barbara Edible Campus Program along with the Methodist Church as a way to bring the community together and help tackle the problem of food insecurity in the college population.
“It’s creating a space where it’s totally open to the community and if you come and hang out in the garden, then you’ll just interact with people that you never would’ve met otherwise in really cool and interesting ways,” said Whitner Grange, a second-year environmental studies major hired to help maintain the garden.
An idea that was planted last spring has blossomed this May into a community garden that grows produce such as kale, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes as “a way to beautify the area and connect the church to the community,” said Katie Maynard, the program advisor.
Shortly after coming up with the idea for a community garden, the church reached out to Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) to fund an intern for the project. The Regional Methodist Community also supplied a grant that was used for supplies and wood to create the uniting garden.
“I love the idea that the university is working with a church and that the neighbors are now involved. We have homeless people who come to work, and students of course. It’s really a community builder,” said Martha Sachen, an attendee of the event.
The Grand Opening event consisted of food, a live band, and sidewalk chalk that residents of Isla Vista could enjoy while learning more about composting, gardening, and food insecurity. About 50 residents showed up, ages ranging from college students to elderly people in the community.
In addition to the church’s community garden, UCSB’s Edible Campus Program has three other garden locations within the campus. The Edible Campus Program has the “initiative to help utilize under-utilized space on campus and in the campus community to help grow food specifically for food insecure students,” Maynard said.
The team behind the garden has done community outreach inside of Isla Vista in order to give students and residents the knowledge on how to take advantage of this garden.
“It’s here, it’s for them. It’s their garden,” said Selenia Segura-Verdin, the garden’s community outreach coordinator.
Anyone can come and take advantage of the freshly-grown produce every Sunday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. when the garden hosts weekly volunteer days. Residents of Isla Vista can come and bring their own plants to plant or just help maintain the new space. Any volunteer can leave with whatever produce they want from the garden to take home and use for fresh meals.
“We’re really committed to connecting students to long-term residents of isla vista and bridging across all different communities of Isla Vista,” Maynard said.