Growing more than food

Gardening has always been a hobby for Ncais, but when she was exploring internship opportunities, it became a calling

By Mount Mary University

Posted on November 18, 2016

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Gardening has always been a hobby of Ncais Vang, and when she was exploring internship opportunities, it became a calling. Ncais, a sociology major and nutrition minor, has a deep interest in creating healthy communities.

“When I talk about fresh, I mean things you can pick from a garden,” she said.

“It’s about giving nutritious, fresh items to our neighbors.”

Ncais has worked as an intern at the community garden on Mount Mary’s campus over summer and early fall. She waters, plants produce, weeds and harvests several times a week. Each time she harvests the garden, she pulls between 10-20 pounds of fresh vegetables including banana peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers and other seasonal goods. Then Ncais packs up the fresh produce and delivers it to Northwest Baptist Church Food Pantry.

Located on the corner of 92nd and Grantosa, only a mile away from Mount Mary, the Northwest Baptist Church Food Pantry serves community members on the northwest side of Milwaukee. A good amount of this food is distributed and consumed within only a few miles of where it’s grown. The food pantry serves about 360 people on a monthly basis through the Emergency Food Assistance Program and The Stockbox Program.

“It’s about giving nutritious, fresh items to our neighbors.”

Ncais Vang
Sociology major and Nutrition minor

“We have been fortunate enough to receive fresh produce weekly from Mount Mary University,” said Dawn McClain, emergency food pantry coordinator. “All donations are what makes this pantry able to help so many people and are very much needed and appreciated.”

Mount Mary University Dietetics and Sociology departments have been delivering donations to the food pantry for more than three years. Faculty members work with students to clean out the garden each spring, plant seedlings and maintain records of the garden map to allow for purposeful crop rotation.

“The experience of consistent tending of the garden and donating produce is a way that our students learn about social justice,” says Dean of Natural and Health Sciences Cheryl Bailey.

“Students like Ncais are growing more than food; they’re connecting the ‘mutual relationship’ between a community and a garden.”

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