BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—A trio of O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs students will be responsible for putting home-grown food on the tables of a local neighborhood after writing a successful grant application as part of one of their undergraduate classes.
Olivia Harshbarger, Marlon Willliams, and Fiona Smythe worked on the grant—on behalf of the Bloomington Food Policy Council—for Professor Laura Littlepage’s course on grant writing.
Bloomington Tri Kappa awarded more than $3,700 to fund 12 garden towers, each one providing enough space to hold 50 potted plants. For the participating households in Bloomington’s Crestmont neighborhood, the towers will provide a much-needed source of nutritious and cost-efficient food.
A recent study discovered that more than 13 percent of households in Monroe County suffered from food insecurity—the lack of enough consistent food for active and healthy living. The Crestmont neighborhood, a public housing development operated by the Bloomington Housing Authority, reported high rates of food insecurity.
But most residents also expressed a strong desire to grow their own food.
The garden towers provided by the grant will include soil, seeds, watering cans, and gardening kits. Volunteers with the BPFC will also lead educational initiatives to help get the plants growing.
“I’m so proud of Olivia, Marlon, and Fiona, who worked so hard to do something that will benefit the Crestmont community,” Littlepage said. “They worked hand-in-hand with the Bloomington Food Policy Council—which has no staff and no physical location—to use the skills they learned in the classroom to help a real-world client with real-life needs.”
Harshbarger said those skills will be valuable to her and her colleagues going forward.
“This project made my learning so much more meaningful,” she said. “I felt very engaged and excited by the work we were doing knowing that it was impacting our local community and a real nonprofit, and am extremely grateful for the opportunity.”
The BFPC exists to increase and preserve access to sustainably produced, locally grown, healthful food for all residents in Monroe and surrounding counties by assessing the current food system, educating the community on food issues, and advocating for a healthier system, said Dr. Angela Babb, a member of the BFPC’s assessment and research working group.
“This is such a critical time to support our fellow neighbors with resources to grow their own healthy and sustainable food,” Babb said. “The efforts of the O’Neill School’s students have resulted in a project that will truly make a difference in many lives here within our community. I’m grateful to the students for their hard work, to Professor Littlepage for her leadership, and to Bloomington Tri Kappa for believing in this worthwhile initiative.”
The garden towers are expected to be delivered and installed sometime in the coming weeks.
“We hope that the garden tower project will provide Crestmont residents with a sustainable way to grow fresh food to supplement their diets,” Harshbarger said.
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington
The O’Neill School (formerly SPEA) is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2021 "Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs" by U.S. News & World Report, O’Neill ranks first in the country. Additionally, six of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including the number one nonprofit management program.