September 09, 2021
Garden Party: The First Valley Table, Fresh Produce, and Giving Back
Marist Dining Services along with Marist Student Jessica Hawkins harvest produce for the local community and give students a taste in the dining hall for the first Valley Table, entitled Garden Party.
On Tuesday, September 7th, Marist Dining Services and Marist student Jessica Hawkins, hosted the first Valley Table of the semester: A Marist Garden Party. The Murray Student Center Dining Hall served dishes made with select fresh produce from the Marist Garden at Chef’s Table, while extra portions of the meals were made and set aside to donate to a local nonprofit. In addition, corresponding with this event, produce from the Marist Community Garden was donated to the local community via FeedHV.
This is not the first time the Marist Garden has donated fresh produce to the community: at least 50% of all food grown in the garden must be given either to Marist students, or the greater Poughkeepsie community. This summer, from June to August, at least 7 of the 13 beds donated to the local food pantry and mobile market. Organized by Dutchess Outreach and other food pantry organizations, the garden donated over 25lbs of fresh produce. Tomatoes, radishes, Swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, squash, basil, rosemary, arugula and garlic were all included in this donation.
So, not only have Marist students benefited from the garden at Valley Table, but members of the Poughkeepsie community enjoyed the harvest as well.
One of the 13 garden beds is managed by Marist Dining Services, and was the main bed utilized for the luncheon. The produce in this bed was ready to be harvested and made into meals for Marist students. Additionally, owners of other beds chose to donate produce to this event, adding tomatoes, basil, and mint to the luncheon meals. Heirloom tomato pizzettes with fresh basil, wild blackberry cobblers with fresh cream, and lemon mint sweet tea were just some of the items on the menu. “I believe this luncheon is the first event this semester where enough students are on campus to enjoy the food that has been grown in the garden all summer,” said Hawkins. Hawkins greatly helped to coordinate this event, and has been closely involved with the garden ever since taking a food ethics course on campus. “I got involved in the garden after I took a class with Dr. Campisi where we were in the garden, and my goal was to help decrease waste in the garden by giving the food to a broader range of organizations (Marist clubs, Poughkeepsie food pantries, or other Marist students),” said Hawkins. “A lot of this is still a work in progress, but over this past summer, we've been able to keep a lot of food from going bad by giving it to others to use when it is ripe.”
The Marist Garden has a history of strong student involvement; it was started in 2018 by two Marist students, Alec Lee and Alexis Kovlakas, for their Honors thesis project. Both students were environmental science majors, and Alec received one of the most prestigious awards given to undergraduates in the sciences, the Goldwater Award, for his work in the garden. Now, Hawkins continues the work that these two students began, through maintaining the cultivation of the Marist Garden, and making it a central part of both the campus and the larger community. For students looking to be more involved in sustainable measures on campus, Marist’s environmental clubs, SEED (Students Encouraging Environmental Dedication) and CSAC (Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee), will welcome new members. Each club works to take action in an effort to create a more environmentally sustainable campus.