The Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, located in southeast Mesa, has received a $15,000 Live Well Arizona mini-grant from Vitalyst Health Foundation to support its community garden. The grant funds will be used for essential components to help in the relocation and expansion of the community garden, called The Lot @ ASU, in support of creating a multifunctional outdoor learning center that connects campus to community.
Susan Norton, a graduate of the ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and program manager of university sustainability practices, brings a background in horticulture, sustainability leadership, and environmental justice, to the project. For the past six years, she has been the head green thumb at the original community garden, which will be relocated from an off-campus location in a residential community to a convenient spot in the center of the ASU Polytechnic Campus, adjacent to the student union, fitness center, and Citrus dining hall.
“We’re taking all the positive things from the community garden, relocating it, and making it a true interdisciplinary space,” explains Norton. “The Lot @ ASU will be an urban green space where students will come not just to grow food, but to study, have events and classes, meditate, or enjoy fitness related activities such as yoga and tai chi. The garden will offer a way for students to engage with the outdoors in lots of healthy, positive ways.”
Norton says the plan is to break ground in August, and get cool weather plants like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and carrots, in the ground this fall. The food will then be harvested, cleaned, and bagged by students, and shared with the nonprofit organizations AZCEND in Chandler and House of Refuge on the ASU Polytechnic campus, as well as distributed through a farm stand for students, staff and faculty.
“The students are really excited, says Norton. “They are loving the idea that there is a new addition to the campus – something they can connect with. Faculty are excited to have a dedicated outdoor learning lab where they can support their lessons in a true environment. We’re also looking into working with nearby schools to offer hands-on STEM learning opportunities in the garden.”
Individuals and organizations who are interested in learning how they can support this project with monetary or in-kind donations such as trees, benches, concrete, and other items, should contact Norton at Susan.Norton@asu.edu.
“This space will have a positive impact on community health in a number of ways,” says Jon Ford of Vitalyst Health Foundation. “The garden will build upon existing efforts to provide fresh affordable food to those who need it, build community through environmentalism, and bring students of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds together in a shared natural environment.”
Vitalyst Health Foundation is on a mission to inform, connect and support efforts to improve the health of individuals and communities in Arizona. Established following the sale of the St. Luke’s Hospital System to a for-profit corporation in 1996, the foundation operated as St. Luke’s Charitable Health Trust (1996-1999) and St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (2000-2016). Today, Vitalyst is an independent, non-partisan public foundation with four overarching priorities: (1) increasing access to care and insurance coverage; (2) working with municipal leaders to promote healthy community design; (3) building community-based organizational capacity; and (4) promoting health innovation and collaboration. Over its history, the foundation has invested more than $100 million and established itself as a key thought leader, convener and catalyst of key initiatives – ranging from statewide health policy and systems to development of local community gardens. More information is available at .