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Master's students grow hope

Campus garden to provide fresh vegetables to families in need

Posted: October 2, 2009 9:50 p.m.
Updated: October 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Students from The Master's College level an area for a raised box planter on Friday. The planter will be used to grow fresh vegetables that the students plan to donate to the SCV food pantry.

 
Within a couple of hours, a team of about 25 students from The Master's College turned an unused patch of dirt on the Placerita Canyon campus into what will soon be a source of meals for Santa Clarita Valley families in need.

The 33- by 55-foot community garden will be home to staples like lettuce, cauliflower, onions, broccoli, spinach and radishes.

Members of the student government will share the responsibility of tending to the garden throughout the school year.

And it will be more than a scenic spot on campus.

By the end of November, the Christian college plans to donate the fresh produce that sprouts from its soil to the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry, which has seen a consistent increase in the number of customers as the economy declines.

So far, the first half of the year has seen a 33 percent increase in customers over last year, said Belinda Crawford, executive director of the Newhall-based nonprofit organization.

Roughly 48 percent of clients are children. In 2008, the pantry served 5,500 clients.

Many of the people using the pantry are families that have seen unemployment payments run out and have hit financial difficulties.

"They're just really at the point of desperation," she said.

The donation is in line with the pantry's goal of providing fresh fruit and vegetables for clients, Crawford said.

"To be able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, it's a blessing to us and our clients," she said.

Fresh produce can be expensive for families.

"When you are on a tight, limited budget, a lot of times those fruits and vegetables are things that families must leave off their grocery list," she said.

While the food pantry sees a lot of canned food donations, a handful of markets and a local farm provide produce, she said.

"We really like to concentrate on those foods that have the highest nutritional value," she said.

The garden comes as the college hopes to bolster its community outreach efforts, said Pete Bargas, director of campus ministries.

"We want to create opportunities that are sustainable," Bargas said.

The school already volunteers for events like the annual Make a Difference Day and gives back at the food pantry.

The outreach efforts are part of the college's Christian mission to serve others.

"We want to be known more for our service in the Santa Clarita Valley," said Mike Crawford, 20, and vice president of the student government.

For senior Stephen Duwe, 22, who serves as a dorm representative for the student government, it's about sharing God's love in small ways and donating fresh produce at the same time.

"I think it's a worthwhile project," Duwe said.

The Master's College junior Zach Gates, 20, heard about the community garden and stopped by Friday to help lay the foundation down for the garden.

"It's one of the ways we can help out in the community," he said.

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