There’s some kind of food revolution going on at UP Los Baños (UPLB) and it’s begun to take root in student dormitories.
Edible gardening is gaining ground as a way of providing students not only more nutritious options in their diet but also food in dorms when students can’t go out to eat. It seems only right, since UPLB is the country’s leading institution in agriculture. The effort also ties in neatly with the University’s initiative on edible landscapes.
“Sometimes we have students who are short on cash, so they scrimp and skip meals. Or there are those who study late into the night only to realize it’s far too late to go out and buy a proper meal,” says UPLB Housing Office (UHO) Director Zoilo Belano Jr. on how the idea of edible gardening in dorms came about. He added that some of the more healthy choices are also cheaper, so fruits and vegetables freely harvested from the gardens make better sense.
They’re organic, too
UPLB obviously isn’t short on expertise, so the UHO sought the help of Dr. Blesilda Calub of the College of Agriculture and Food Science-Agricultural Systems Institute to teach organic gardening to dorm staff and residents. This was to take better care of food sources that have naturally grown around the dorms, such as papaya and banana, as well as new ones they intend to plant.
The edible gardens at dorms are at different stages of development, with some having more variety of produce than others. Belano explains that this is due to varying terrain and manpower availability, although the UHO will continue to work on improving the productivity of the gardens with less produce.
At present, the most developed is the International House Residence Hall garden, where they’ve planted tomato, okra, cucumber, habanero pepper, strawberry, and blueberry, among many others. The other dorms have string beans, mustard greens, eggplant, chili pepper, sweet potato, ginger, squash, etc. Those that need more work are the gardens at the Women’s Residence Hall and the Veterinary Medicine Residence Hall.
Belano says that the gardens will continue to be developed and maintained through organic farming methods.
Not just for students
The UHO is thinking big and it plans to expand its edible gardening initiative to the faculty and staff housing sector. “We have five residential zones for faculty and staff, and what we want is to have at least one common garden for each zone,” reveals Belano.
Apart from promoting a healthier lifestyle through nutrient-rich foods, gardening is known to be beneficial to physical, mental, and emotional health for all ages. In fact, a field related to this has developed—therapeutic horticulture.
“We also want these gardens to be pockets of social interaction, bringing members of the community closer to each other to make better neighborhoods where residents live harmoniously,” Belano adds.
He is confident the UPLB community will be supportive of these plans and he looks forward to the day edible gardening becomes a widespread phenomenon in schools. After all, as the leading academic institution in agriculture, UPLB is expected to do no less than start the food revolution in its own backyard.