Diversity and Democracy

The Harvest Project at Owens Community College

The Owens Harvest Project (Helping All People Reap the Value of Education through Service and Working Together) has established a food pantry and community garden initiative to provide interdisciplinary service-learning opportunities that benefit students themselves. The project provides students an opportunity to explore the needs of campus community members while examining the broader causes of social problems.

Soon after Owens Community College opened its community garden in 2010, students began appearing after hours asking if they could harvest food. Realizing that these students were in need, the college decided to open a food pantry to serve them. The pantry now serves over five hundred people each month and distributes several hundred pounds of food weekly—all without drawing on institutional funds.

The Harvest Project offers integrated service-learning opportunities on campus while connecting with traditional off-campus community partners such as the Toledo Seagate Food Bank. Students in developmental education, marketing, urban agriculture, math, English, nursing, and dietetic courses have used the garden and pantry projects as service-learning opportunities and living–learning labs. These students apply the skills they learn in class and see the value of these skills in the broader community.

Connect2Complete's civic ambassadors oversee the regular operations of the food pantry and community garden, developing strong leadership skills while gaining firsthand understanding of community service and civic engagement.
Civic ambassadors share their experiences with developmental and college-level students, invite participation in the pantry and garden, and encourage faculty to develop service-learning projects relevant to course outcomes.

The civic ambassadors have helped bring viable academic potential to the Harvest Project, with profound effects on campus culture. The availability of on-site service opportunities has increased faculty interest in incorporating service learning into existing courses, allowing more students to experience its benefits. The project has also heightened awareness of the diverse needs of our student population while offering a means of addressing those needs.

Krista Kiesslingis director of service learning at Owens Community College.

Previous Issues