Tiny leaves push through rich, brown soil in a greenhouse on the campus of Trevecca Nazarene University. Buckets of compost and the waste from a tank of tilapia fish feed the sprouting plants, which will soon be transferred to a community vegetable garden. There, rows of lettuce flourish a block away from the convenience stores and fast-food restaurants of urban Nashville.
“We live in what we call a ‘food desert,'” Jamie Casler, director of Trevecca’s J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice, said. “Local residents here do not have access to healthy, affordable foods like fresh fruits and vegetables because there is no grocery store here in our neighborhood.”
Trevecca is trying to change that: Partnering with local organizations, the school’s Social Justice program has created 50 neighborhood gardens. “We provide all of the materials, resources, and labor through our student body, our classes, and our environmental justice program to grow the produce,” Casler said. “Then we give it away to people in need in our community, or we invite them to come garden with us and develop their own plots so they have access to healthy foods.”