UNCW Public Sociology students build community and promote health
Published: Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 8, 2010 09:11
In an effort to build community and help provide residents with nutritious food options, students from the Public Sociology program will launch a community vegetable garden Oct. 24 at the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA)/ UNCW Community Campus at Hillcrest.
Partnered with other Wilmington and UNCW groups, students from the Public Sociology program are building the garden to give residents in the Hillcrest community access to fresh vegetables they possibly otherwise would not have.
"We know that the healthier foods you eat, the better your overall health is going to be," said Kim Lancaster, a WHA/UNCW Community Campus coordinator. "Many of the residents here don't have transportation, so giving them the opportunity to have a garden on site to where they can go and help themselves to fresh vegetables would be a benefit for the community," she added.
Providing residents with nutritious food options and building physical health is just one of the ways the garden benefits the community. According to Dr. Leslie Hossfeld, director of the Public Sociology program, the garden can also build up the health of the community and create a sense of solidarity amongst Hillcrest residents as they work in the garden together.
"We believe, and research shows, that the more involved the residents are, the healthier the community will be," Hossfeld said.
The WHA/UNCW Community Campus was developed by Dr. Hossfeld in an effort to bridge campus and community. After 3 years of meetings between the Wilmington Housing Authority and UNCW, the doors to the WHA/UNCW Community Campus opened in May 2008, and it was made an official UNCW campus. The community campus now provides low-income residents with access to numerous free programs, while giving students the chance to have hands-on learning experiences.
"I really wanted a place for public sociology students to be in the community. I know they are now developing the skills they need for the jobs they will get," said Hossfeld.
As part of their curriculum, public sociology students study for a year (fall and spring) semesters at the WHA/UNCW Community Campus. The first semester involves a seminar class in which they conduct research, and the second semester involves a practicum at Hillcrest in which they apply their research findings from the previous semester for the betterment of the community.
"One of the benefits of having the [sociology] classes here is that the residents see you come in and start to recognize you," said Lancaster, who also studied as an undergraduate at Hillcrest. "That makes it a lot easier to conduct the research because students are not strangers to [the residents]."
The students then present their findings at the end of each semester to the Wilmington City Council in an effort to attract citywide attention to some of the social issues concerning area residents.
"We do research that makes a difference and we tell people in the community about it and work with them to solve social issues," Hossfeld said.
The garden is just one of several programs implemented at Hillcrest. The community campus offers around 14 programs to residents, which are run by various departments throughout the university, including the art department and the Watson School of Education, as well as other programs run by Cape Fear Community College. These programs cover a wide range of things from college counseling for low-income students, tutoring and various classes, all while providing the students working there with learning opportunities.
The garden, which was the vision of public sociology students studying at Hillcrest last year, will include collard greens, broccoli, cabbage and herbs that residents can pick at harvest.
Two area chefs, Tripp Engel from Brasserie du Soleil and Keith Rhodes from Catch, will also be present at the garden launch demonstrating to Hillcrest residents various ways to prepare certain vegetables. The chefs will also enlist the help of the children at Hillcrest, teaching them the importance of nutrition.
"It gives the children an idea of how they can eat from the garden, by taking fresh vegetables and making them into something good," said Lancaster.
On the menu at the launch, which will be held between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m, will be roasted sweet potatoes, corn bread and collard greens.
UNCW ECO, Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems, Tidal Creek, Central Rotary of Wilmington, Port City Java, UNCW College Democrats, Progressive Gardens, and the Campus Christian Fellowship will also be helping either with the garden or at the garden launch.