Environmental council’s community garden fights for real food

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The Community Garden located at the university’s arboretum. CW/ | John Michael Simpson.

Jessica Ruffin

Brett Hannan wants everyone to know being progressive is not about politics for the University of Alabama Environmental Council (UAECo).

“We want to build a coalition of progressive-minded students, progressive being change for the good,” said Hannan, who is a senior member of the group.

Hannan, a nutrition major, also serves as the club’s coordinator of the Real Food Challenge, which is a national campaign UAECo is putting on to change the handling of food on large university campuses. The club is working closely with Bama Dining to accomplish this.

According to the University of Alabama Environmental Council website, a study by the Kellogg Foundation recently uncovered that less than 2 percent of the United States’ food economy is occupied by “real food.” For Hannan and the rest of UAECo, this is simply unacceptable.

“Real food,” in Hannan’s opinion, is defined as food that is “local, ecologically sound, and humane.”

She also says that UAECo is working towards their national goal of having 20 percent real food by 2020.

One way UAECo has aided in the endeavor toward having more “real food” is by adopting a community garden. The garden is located off 15th Street at the arboretum and allows students to grow their own food naturally. UAECo’s Vice President Mallory Flowers feels the garden is a great learning experience for students.

“The main goal of the organic community garden is exactly what you’d expect—grow good, wholesome food,” said Flowers, a sophomore majoring in mathematics. “But it’s also an amazing way to build community and learn together, while reducing your own carbon footprint. It’s amazing how little you know about how food grows when it’s not in grocery stores.”

Hannan agrees with Flowers, saying that the students can work in the garden everyday if they desire, and take home food they grow. He adds that UAECo would eventually love to have a garden on campus.

UAECo is also involved with three other campaigns in addition to the Real Food Challenge: the Bike’s Policy campaign, the Energy Sustainability campaign and the Shepherd Bend Mine campaign. The Shepherd Bend Mine campaign is one of the main campaigns of UAECo at the University of Alabama, and its goal is to stop the proposed Shepherd Bend strip mine on the University’s property. Since September 2010, UAECo has been fighting against the projected mine to be built along the Black Warrior River.

“We want the University to make a stand not to lease their land for strip mining,” Hannan said. “They haven’t yet made a commitment one way or the other.”

UAECo’s website states that the proposed mine “would be situated only 800 feet upstream from a Birmingham drinking water intake.”

The group has partnered with student groups Cordova Citizens against Strip Mining and Black Warrior River Keeper to fight against this potentially harmful proposed mine.

UAECo holds many events to benefit the campaigns the group supports, from weekly meetings to leadership conferences to rallies on the Shepherd Bend Mine. To view a calendar of these events or to learn more about UAECo, visit http://bama.ua.edu/~ua.