In just over a year, a community garden started by OUWB medical students at the Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic in Pontiac has grown exponentially – with no signs of slowing down.
Started by student leadership at the Student Run Free Clinic (SRFC) – based at the Burnstein Community Health Clinic – the number of flower beds has already increased from three to seven. A shed for supplies, mulch walkways, stepping stones , etc., have also been added.
Volunteers and a $2,000 grant from Oakland University’s Women and Philanthropy group made it all possible, but the team isn’t done yet.
He recently launched a crowdfunding campaign that ends December 31 and is looking to raise an additional $2,000, all in an effort to further the garden’s impact on the community and students.
“A patient is just more than their diagnoses and treatment options,” said Paoula Choobchian, M2, Co-Director, SRFC. “It’s good for students to broaden their perspective to see the patient in a holistic way, and that may consist of the food (their patients) eat.”
“One thing we learn at OUWB…is (how to determine) what a community really needs,” said Sarah George, M2, Co-Director, SRFC.
“Seeing firsthand what this community actually wants, what these patients actually need really adds to that humanizing aspect.”
plant the seed
|Provencher harvests the tomatoes at the end of the garden’s first season in 2021.|
The garden, founded in 2021, works in partnership with the clinic to grow produce and donate it to people who use the student clinic’s evening services.
Last season’s co-directors Tiffany Loh, M3, and Sarah Provencher, M3, started the garden because they felt the need to fulfill a community need.
“The Pontiac area where the garden is located has a high rate of food insecurity and so we thought that being able to provide clinic patients with access to fresh produce during clinic visits would be a good start in addressing this need,” Provencher and Loh said in a joint statement.
With the help of COMPASS and the support of advisors Justin Brox, MD, executive director, Burnstein Community Clinic, and Srikala Yedavally, DO, assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, they ushered in a successful first season, building three garden beds, clearing the space and experimenting with what kinds of vegetables could be grown during the season.
The products are free for patients, and OUWB student volunteers encourage them to take the amount they need.
Patients also receive information on where the products come from and simple recipes to give patients examples of how to use the products.
“We try to grow a variety of things that are nutritious and that people would eat, but also things that you might find in your local grocery store,” said Madison Romanski, M2, one of this year’s garden coordinators.
“We want to give them produce, but also show them what foods are healthy foods…obtainable in our area and not ridiculously expensive.”
The second season of the garden was considered by the team to be a great success.
During spring break, Romanski and his father built four raised beds to increase the amount of produce the garden could grow. Other major season two additions included a shed for supplies, adding mulch, creating stepping stones for the garden, and clearing space for native pollinators to inhabit next year.
Rima Stepanian, M2, who is also the garden coordinator, said she started sowing early at her home to ensure the plants would be ready to donate produce to the community in due time.
“The growing season here is significantly shorter than in warmer climates,” she said. “By the time it was warm enough to put them in the ground, we already had smaller plants as opposed to seeds that were just starting.”
At the end of the season, SRFC patients received approximately 168 servings of products, and nearly 50 students from M1 to M4 volunteered throughout the season, through watering, cleaning, mulching , maintenance and distribution of products to patients.
Room to grow
Although Michigan’s outdoor growing season is over, Romanski said there’s “a lot of thinking” going on about the garden’s future.
The team will soon choose the next garden coordinators. It is also seeking additional funding.
With the money from the crowdfunding campaign, they plan to make donor plaques, gather materials for the next season, build vertical planters and buy a collapsible greenhouse to start seeds earlier in the year. year.
They also hope to purchase more gardening tools and equipment to engage more students and eventually include the wider community as well.
Even with big plans for the future, the students say they are aware of and grateful for the support that has made it possible for them to get here.
“Truly, without their generosity, this garden would not have been made possible,” said Choobchian. “Even the school itself [supports] us in a way that we can be creative to also serve the community. »
Anyone interested in donating to the Community Garden can do so through the Student Run Free Clinic Community Garden crowdfunding link.
To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.
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