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Cultivating Community: Augsburg’s Community Garden

Ten people in diverse garb sit on the edges of raised garden beds or at tables. Some are eating food, others are looking ahead with attentive gazes.
Gardeners gather for a meal and storytelling event in the garden.

Gazing out the west-facing upper windows of the Hagfors Center on Augsburg’s campus, you can’t miss benches, paths, and raised beds of Augsburg’s community garden. While the garden on the edge of campus has been cultivated since 2008, when the plans for the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion got underway, there was a distinct opportunity to preserve and re-imagine this unique community garden space. With support from the Medtronic Community Foundation, design guidance from O2 Design, and community-based input, the garden was rebuilt to make the space more accessible, inclusive, and visible. 

Throughout the design process for the new garden space, gardeners and Augsburg staff centered the enduring principles and goals for this vital community connection space: grow food, build relationships, and learn together. Two young people converse while sitting on the edge of a raised bed in the garden.The garden now has wider and defined pathways, clear plot boundaries, and a variety of raised and in-ground beds. 

The re-designed garden just finished its second season of production. With over sixty individual plots and communal growing space cultivated by residents of Cedar-Riverside and Augsburg staff, faculty, and students, the newly rebuilt garden is continuing to offer a place for learning and building community. 

About half of the members of Augsburg’s community garden are neighbors in Cedar-Riverside and Seward (six have a view of the garden from their homes across the street!), and about half are Augsburg staff, faculty, and students. Student groups, such as Hmong Women Together and the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association, tend portions of the communal gardening areas, and about ten students from TRIO Summer Bridge spent time learning in the garden over the 2019 growing season.

Individual gardeners are not the only people to utilize the garden; this fall, several professors teaching classes focused on food and sustainability are also capitalizing on the presence of the garden. From a history of food class, to a course on environmental connections to food, a chemistry AugSem, and a science of food and cooking class: the garden has increasingly become a laboratory for classroom learning on wide-ranging subjects related to growing and consuming food. Other classes utilize the garden in less formal ways, perhaps holding a class outside by The Loveliest of Trees, or sending students out for discussion as they walk the garden paths.

Natalie Jacobson and Allyson Green enjoy conversation in the garden. Another individual is in the foreground wearing a red backpack, their back turned to the camera.
Campus Kitchen Coordinator Natalie Jacobson (left) and Chief Sustainability Officer Allyson Green (right) enjoy conversation at a garden event.

During the summer and fall of 2019, the garden began to utilize the Food Lab space in the Hagfors Center for potlucks and food preparation. Chief Sustainability Officer Allyson Green, who oversees the garden, remarked that the first session of gardeners gathering in the food lab over the summer was the highlight of the season; people got to know one another and shared cooking techniques and conversation as they made sambusas. This season also saw a student-led storytelling event in partnership with Mixed Blood Theater and food activist, LaDonna Redmond. As gardeners and others are living into the new space, opportunities for connecting and learning with and from each other are growing alongside the vegetables. 

One challenge with the garden rebuild was impacted soil in the in-ground beds due to construction equipment. After the garden was initially built, gardeners were having a difficult time cultivating healthy root systems for their plants, requiring that all of the in-ground beds be dug up and the soil turned. Thankfully, dozens of students, several classes, and a few athletic teams answered the call, picking up shovels and making quick work of the beds that required turning.

When asked about how the garden fits into the overall sustainability commitments of Augsburg, Allyson noted that the garden is a visible demonstration of Augsburg’s commitment to caring for the place where Augsburg is located. By tending to our natural environment and building a place for community building, food access, and learning, the garden is an important aspect of Augsburg’s place-based and anchor institution work. 

An aerial view of the Augsburg Community Garden. A table in the foreground has food on it, and people are lining up to serve themselves.Allyson also noted her hopes for the garden. With twenty-five people on the waiting list, she hopes that the garden can continue to be a vital place on-campus for learning and relationship building that contributes to the well-being of the whole community. She dreams that the garden might be a model for cooperation and learning that can spread to other areas of campus, and even to other communities! 

As a space that requires the cooperation of dozens of people who all have different ideas about ways of growing food, habits of organization and storage, and different cultures, personalities, and life stories, the garden is a unique place for experimentation, building community amongst difference, and finding a middle ground. Here’s to a successful growing season and many more to come!

2018-2019 Year in Review

neighbors eating at garden partyThe Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship had a whirlwind 2018-2019 school year. From workshops and lectures to community-based collaboration, campus-wide initiatives, and hosting a national conference, in addition to our day-to-day programs like LEAD Fellows, Campus Kitchen, and Public Achievement, this past year was full to the brim. We are thankful for all of our partners and collaborators in this ever-changing and exciting work. As we look ahead to the new school year, we are proud to share some highlights from 2018-2019:

Democracy Augsburg:

During the fall of 2018, the Sabo Center hosted 18(!) workshops and teach-ins on topics ranging from community organizing basics to the opioid epidemic, democracy in South Africa, citizenship and community agency, and more. Sabo Center staff invited candidates from across the political spectrum to campus for tabling and outreach prior to the 2018 midterm elections, and significantly increased our center’s visibility with students, staff, and faculty.

Student Employment Pilot:

Led by Sabo Center Director Elaine Eschenbacher, the Sabo Center initiated a student employment pilot program that worked closely with supervisors and students to make on-campus student employment more meaningful and useful, both for departments employing student workers and for students in their own career preparation. Twenty students and their supervisors went through orientation, training, and structured reflection throughout the course of the school year, and a report on the results of the program are forthcoming.

Environmental Stewardship:

The intern team of three undergraduate students, one graduate student, and a MN GreenCorps member hosted several events throughout the school year exploring the intersections of equity and sustainability, including a “Sip-Sustain-Stories” discussion series and a “Sustainability is No Joke” storytelling event facilitated by RFTP. In collaboration with Campus Kitchen, students began work to set up a campus “Share Shop”–a space created by and for students to reduce consumption, mitigate student costs by providing access to things like tools, and creating a community space where students can take part in informal learning around sustainable practices and skills sharing. The Share Shop and Campus Cupboard (student-run food shelf) are excited to co-locate in the basement of the Old Science building in the fall of 2019.

Campus Kitchen:

Campus Kitchen saw the exciting addition of two new staff members, LaToya Taris-James and Natalie Jacobson. The Campus Kitchen student leadership team deepened the Campus Kitchen partnership with the Brian Coyle Community Center youth program, beginning weekly cooking sessions in the Augsburg Food Lab and in the Brian Coyle kitchen. Another highlight of the year was a garden party event featuring local food activist La Donna Redmond and storytelling facilitated by Mixed Blood Theater.

Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute:

The Sabo Center was thrilled to host our colleagues in the Place-Based Justice Network for the network’s annual conference. Read more about the PBJN Summer Institute it the blog featuring highlights of the conference. 

Undoing White Body Supremacy Pilot Project:

In partnership with Augsburg’s Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, staff members at the Sabo Center are leading a pilot cohort of white faculty and staff learning to undo the ways white supremacy shows up in our bodies, not just in our minds. Selected applicants will meet and learn together throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. This is body-based racial justice work, informed by Somatic Experiencing®  and Interpersonal Neurobiology. You can read more about this exciting project on the Sabo Center Blog.

LEAD Fellows:

The 2018-2019 LEAD Fellows cohort had innovative programming, including a session about radical self-care, a vocation panel of recent graduates, and leadership styles exercises, including a town hall meeting simulation. New community partners hosting LEAD Fellows this year included OutFront MN and Inquilinxs Unidxs. And, best of all, we welcomed LaToya Taris-James, an amazing new staff member who brings a wealth of experience in youth and leadership development to supporting both the LEAD Fellows program and Campus Kitchen!

Interfaith @ Cedar Commons:

Once a month, Interfaith Scholars and community members meet together for food and interfaith conversations on a variety of topics. Topics for 2018-2019 included Wellness and Faith, Intersection of Culture and Religion, Religion as a Tool for Oppression and Liberation, and Interfaith Perspectives Post-Election.

Community-Based Learning:

Director of Community Engagement Mary Laurel True collaborates with faculty across the University to connect their classes to community organizations and projects. Some highlights from 2018-2019 included co-hosting a national conference on Cuba with faculty in the Spanish department, and bringing Spanish classes to the Mexican consulate in St. Paul to learn about their work with immigration and new immigrant communities in Minnesota. In collaboration with Religion department professors, students completed 12 visits to diverse places of worship (mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples), connecting their visits with study of interfaith topics.

 

Interested to join us for 2019-2020? Check out the Calendar and Events page, and be sure to like the Sabo Center of Facebook (@sabocenter) for all the latest on workshops, events, and ways to plug in!

Inter-generational Connections: Campus Kitchen and Ebenezer Tower

By Alana Goodson

Students dish out food while others sit around a table.
Students serve food at Ebenezer Tower.

Ebenezer Tower on Portland Avenue in Minneapolis is a place that many senior residents call home. The residents are diverse in age, ethnicity, and history. Ebenezer Tower and Augsburg Campus Kitchen have a partnership that involves building community through sharing food together. Campus Kitchen students deliver lunches to seniors on Thursday afternoons, and on Fridays we serve and eat dinner at Ebenezer. This partnership has allowed many young college students like myself to build relationships with senior residents.

I have led many Ebenezer Tower meal shifts over the past three semesters. In the beginning, it was difficult to establish relationships because there were so many residents to talk to and many names to remember – but as time went on, I became more familiar with the regulars and began to remember their names as they began to remember mine.

Although I lead most shifts with the assistance of volunteers, I have led a number of them alone. It was during those shifts that I received a large amount of gratitude from the residents, and they were truly grateful for the effort and persistence that I displayed so that we could share this weekly dinner. On March 9th, 2018, Kat and Rita, two residents, told me, “We can help you as much as you need, we appreciate you coming before your spring break, all by yourself.” That is not the only time they have expressed their gratitude. On April 13th, 2018, Bruce came up to me after his meal and said, “Thank you for coming even with the weather conditions.” From these comments, and many others, it is evident that the relationship Campus Kitchen and Ebenezer Tower have built together is appreciated.

The residents have not stopped with their meaningful expressions of gratitude. This semester, they donated five large boxes of non-perishable foods and over one hundred dollars to support Augsburg’s Campus Cupboard, a food shelf available to all students. It has been amazing to see the continuous reciprocal relationship that has been built between the Augsburg and Ebenezer community. We continue to bring food to them every week, and every couple of weeks they donate a couple more dollars or food that they have been keeping in stock just for our cupboard. 

The residents at Ebenezer have been so supportive towards Campus Kitchen at Augsburg University and myself. I will forever be grateful for their clapping and cheers that I receive with my volunteers as we walk in at 6pm. I believe this is because every time that they welcome us in, I can feel the community coming closer together–and it feels a little more cozy, like home, every time.

Serving up food and fun with Campus Kitchen Step-Up interns

Hi my name is Davonte and I worked as one of Augsburg’s Campus Kitchen summer Step-up interns and it was my first ever job experience. Over the summer I’ve acquired a variety of job experiences and practiced many skills such as cooking, gardening, and researching food systems. Every Monday through Thursday I served food with the youth at the Brian Coyle Center and on Saturday I participated in the gleaning at the Mill City Farmer’s Market where we collected fresh donations of produce and gave it elders at The Cedars senior apartment building in Cedar-Riverside. It was a lot of hard work but it was also very fun and well worth the time. For example, going to the Guthrie Theatre during my shift on Saturday to enjoy the views made the time go so much faster.

This summer while cooking I learned new things such as new recipes made from fresh and healthy ingredients that ended up tasting really good like zucchini muffins and cucumber popsicles. Also one of my favorite parts of the job was just making other people happy by giving them food. It’s a rewarding experience.  

-Davonte

 

Hey, my name is Raykel and this past summer I worked for Campus Kitchen through the Minneapolis Step Up program. “What’s Campus Kitchen you ask?” Well Campus Kitchen is a food organization that is basically built off of donations. Any food not used in the Augsburg kitchen that has already been prepared but wasn’t eaten is given to Campus Kitchen to be reused. We have a wide variety of the kinds of food that we get, although once the food is put into the fridge we have a week to use it and most times it gets used and if not we freeze it. Another question you probably have is “Where does the food go once prepared everyday?” Well, Monday-Thursday the food is made and distributed to the Brian Coyle Center, for the children and even the adults (depending on how much we have left) but kids always eat first. Fridays, twice a month we take food to the elders at Ebenezer Tower Apartments and eat dinner with them. Campus Kitchen is like an organization that is always giving back to the community. Did I mention the garden where the community gets together and grows what they want to?

This job gives many opportunities. For instance, you meet people at a college and you learn things about the college that you didn’t know before. Also, you can put it on your resume. Plus if you ever need a job when you come to college then you know a place that you don’t even have to leave campus for. There were many memories and skills that we made and learned over the summer but there’s a couple that stand out to me:  knowledge of plants and knowledge of cooking in the kitchen. For two weeks in the summer time we had a gap in our schedule because the Brian Coyle Center was shut down so we helped out MN Urban Debate League camp. During, before, or even after their lunch we always could eat lunch so who wouldn’t go back for 3rds? This job helped me gain a lot of knowledge about many things and I’m very grateful for a great job.

Here’s some photos from the summer time:

1st photo is from the Garden

2nd photo was when we prepared the food by ourselves

-Raykel N.

 

Sabo Center Collaboration: Cultivating Civic Skills for Community-Centered Healthcare

When most people think of nursing, the first association that comes to mind is not usually “political.” But the Nursing Department at Augsburg College, in partnership with staff at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, is encouraging their students to think of nursing as just that: public, change-making work, focused on relationship-building, public dialogue, and grassroots efforts in local context.

Beginning in 2009, the Augsburg College Nursing Department began collaborating with the Sabo Center, bringing in Public Achievement Organizer Dennis Donovan to teach graduate students about beginning organizing skills, such as one-to-one relational meetings. In the years since, the Augsburg nursing program has turned to social change-making as a key component of its course curriculum, focusing on the social barriers to health in addition to bedside care. After receiving a grant from the Augsburg College president’s office in 2014, the Nursing Department worked with Sabo Center staff to train department faculty about civic skills and to subsequently embed these concepts into curriculum and coursework. Such core civic skills include one-to-one relational meetings, formulating public narrative, deliberative dialogue, power mapping, and public evaluation.

Katie Clark, Nursing Instructor and Director of Augsburg Central Health Commons and Health Commons in Cedar-Riverside, incorporated these civic skills into a graduate-level class focused on unique models of care and communities as the foundation of health, utilizing a social justice lens. For their final project, students had to apply civic skills in the context of their care site. The impact on student’s professional self-understanding was immense, according to Clark. Because of the incorporation of civic-focused strategies in their nursing practice, “students think about how they can create change in different ways. I don’t think people in nursing really think of themselves as political,” Clark said, “Nurses are more caregivers…(but) students get out of that mindset and think, ‘Oh, I could have a one-on-one (relational meeting) with that person.’ I see students thinking about engaging in their community differently.”

The collaboration with the Sabo Center has complimented the nursing department’s commitment to transcultural nursing, a model for nursing that holistically considers culture, life patterns, and other social factors while providing culturally competent care. Health and people are viewed not as discreet cases, but as individuals who are incorporated into webs of relation and inhabit different ways of being in the world. Nursing thus becomes concerned with community health, examining how and where people belong, the strength of human connections, and health inequities. Rooted in community-based praxis, nursing professionals know not only how to administer direct care, but how to build relationships, formulate a public narrative about community health, and advocate for change.

The community-based, transcultural focus of Augsburg’s nursing program has also intersected with another Sabo Center program, Campus Kitchen. For the past 4 years, the Nursing Department and the Sabo Center have partnered to host an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, with a particular focus on the intersection of the Health Commons and the Campus Kitchen-run Augsburg Community Garden. Through the relationship between the two programs, more Cedar-Riverside residents have been engaged with the garden; additionally, the relationship between Health Commons and Campus Kitchen has been key to the success of the farmer’s market gleaning project, with a neighborhood health liaison hired by Health Commons spreading the word about the program and distributing food.

Partnerships and collaboration are a hallmark of the Sabo Center’s work, and the relationship with the Nursing Department embodies our mission to foster civic agency, to help cultivate public, change-making skills, and to forge connections with the local community.

Want to learn more? Visit the Health Commons website, the Augsburg College Nursing Department website, the Augsburg Campus Kitchen website, and the Sabo Center website.

Profile: Grace Corbin, Campus Kitchen Student Leader

Photo of Grace Corbin
Grace Corbin preps a meal for one of Campus Kitchen’s partner sites.

For Grace Corbin, food justice is not just about making sure everyone can eat. As a participant in Augsburg College’s Campus Kitchen program throughout her four years at Augsburg—this year as a student leader—Grace has come to understand the sharing of food as an essential aspect of breaking down social and cultural barriers. Whether it is through serving food to elders at the Ebenezer Towers, gleaning food from the Mill City Farmers Market, or growing food in the Augsburg Community Garden, Grace sees all of the aspects of Campus Kitchen as opportunities for relationship building with community members, fellows students, and staff. Relationships, she says, are key to building equity when it comes to food access, and health and community well-being more generally.

Grace’s time with Campus Kitchen has also allowed her to develop skills and interests that she might not otherwise have explored. Grace credits her experience with Campus Kitchen—particularly learning about food systems and food waste—as inspiring her interest in environmental sustainability and ultimately her interest in pursuing faith-based environmental work after graduation. Co-leading a student plot in the Augsburg Community Garden and our weekly gleaning efforts this summer provided her with an experiential learning opportunity that quickly pushed her out of her comfort zone to learn about vegetables, event planning, the logistics of food distribution, and the diverse community that surrounds Augsburg’s campus. Grace took on the challenge: “I learned a lot of things about myself…(and) how willing I am to challenge myself.” Participating in Campus Kitchen was even a physical feat: over the course of last summer, Grace and a fellow student lifted over 5,000 pounds (!) of leftover produce from the Mill City Farmers Market and distributed it weekly to elders in a nearby apartment complex.

Augsburg Campus Kitchen is part of the national Campus Kitchens Project, which focuses on

  • Strengthening Bodies by using existing resources to meet hunger and nutritional needs in our communities
  • Empowering Minds by providing leadership and service-learning opportunities to college students, and educational benefits to adults, seniors, children, and families in need
  • Building Communities by fostering a new generation of community-minded adults through resourceful and mutually beneficial partnerships among students, social service agencies, businesses, and universities

Campus Kitchen at Augsburg focuses on four aspects of food justice: Food to Share (free meals, on-campus food shelf, and gleaning), Food to Grow (community garden), Food to Buy (farmers market), and Food to Know (food education).

Interested in learning more about the work of Campus Kitchen through the Sabo Center at Augsburg College? Take a look at our website or check out our day-to-day on Facebook. And you can always volunteer! Contact Campus Kitchen director Allyson Green by emailing greena@augsburg.edu.

Cooking and building community with Campus Kitchen!

20160627_135606Hello! Kenani and DJ here, Augsburg Campus Kitchen’s summer 2016 Step-Up Interns. This summer we were placed with Augsburg Campus Kitchen for our first ever job through the City of Minneapolis Step-Up program. All summer we have been cooking and serving meals for youth at the Brian Coyle Center summer program. In addition, on Mondays we helped teach gardening, cooking, and nutrition lessons to Brian Coyles’ K-8th graders. The theme for the summer was Top Chef and each week we had a cooking competition and awarded three participants Top Chef of the week. Thanks to grant support from The Campus Kitchens Project, These students were able to bring home a bag of groceries and recipes to their families so they could recreate the meals with them.

IMG_20160818_120719This past week in Top Chef we had a salsa competition where students were given a certain amount of fake money to buy the fresh ingredients to make their special salsas. The students had to be creative in making unique salsa while still making sure they had enough money to buy all the ingredients for their salsa. The kids had tons of fun making salsa and many of them were surprised how good their salsa turned out. For instance, a few students challenged themselves by putting less common ingredients such as black beans or pineapple in their salsa and still ended up loving it! We were really impressed that almost all the students liked their salsa – we learned it is almost impossible to make bad salsa from fresh ingredients!

Throughout the summer we learned about a community that is different than our own. We realized how everyone in Cedar Riverside seems to know each other and how connected they are to their community. Even though we were out of our comfort zone a little at first we were able to make new friends and learn new things, not to mention becoming all-star dishwashers and building our resumes!

 

You can eat processed meats and red meats, but can you digest cancer?

As a way to further reflect on their experience with Campus Cupboard, polish their communication skills, and explore new topics related to food and sustainability, Campus Cupboard volunteers will be publishing weekly blogs this fall. Check back each week for new musings from the students!

By: Oscar-Martinez-Armenta (’16)

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an intergovernmental agency forming part of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently served us a mouthful. On Monday, October 26, the IARC reported that processed meats and red meats are linked to cancer.

After analyzing 800 scientific studies, the IARC categorized processed meats as a Group 1 Carcinogenic. Under this category, “there is enough evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer in humans.” Red meats were placed in Group 2A, which means that there is probable cause of cancer, but the evidence is inconclusive.

Processed meats are those altered through methods like salting, curing, and fermentation. Bacon, ham, and sausage are prime examples. Eating 50 grams per day of these meats can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Continue reading “You can eat processed meats and red meats, but can you digest cancer?”

My Passion for New Adventures

As a way to further reflect on their experience with Campus Cupboard, polish their communication skills, and explore new topics related to food and sustainability, Campus Cupboard volunteers will be publishing weekly blogs this fall. Below, Malia kicks off the “Food and Sustainability Series” by exploring new food adventures. Check back each Monday for new musings from the students!

By Malia Thao (’16)

Living in a big and dynamic world, I have a strong passion to travel across the globe, for new adventures and to learn more about the various cultures out there. Food is always a big part of that learning.

Last semester, I was fortunate enough to studied abroad in two countries: El Salvador for a short term winter break, and South Korea for a semester long. Both of these international experiences were wonderful and awesome learning abroad experiences. The biggest highlight of everything was the authentic foods from these places. One of my favorite foods in El Salvador was Pupusa which is a thick tortilla bread stuffed with a bean paste. On the other side, my favorite food in South Korea was Kimbap and Dakbokki. Kimbap, is a steamed rice wrapped with all kinds of vegetables and Dakbokki is a spicy rice cake stew. Just thinking about these foods makes me really want to go back to visit El Salvador and South Korea. Continue reading “My Passion for New Adventures”

Biodiesel: Fueling an Open Mind

As a way to further reflect on their experience with Campus Cupboard, polish their communication skills, and explore new topics related to food and sustainability, Campus Cupboard volunteers will be publishing weekly blogs this fall. Below, Oscar kicks off the “Food and Sustainability Series” with a topic he has been interested in learning more about. Check back each Monday for new musings from the students!

By Oscar Martinez (’16)

Last year, Minnesota increased the mandate from a 5 percent minimal biodiesel blend (B5) in its diesel fuel supply to B10. The shift occurred because biodiesel has demonstrated substantial reduction in particulate and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As the statue currently reads, Minnesota will be raising to B20 by 2018.

Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning substance made from oils and natural fats (e.g., soybean oil, and animal fats) that is reducing dependence of fossil fuels. If I was in the same mindset that I had been in three years ago and listened to these statements, I would be asking why the state is not aiming for higher biodiesel blends. Luckily (or maybe not), playing the scientist in college has opened my mind. Through lecture, lab research, and discussion, I have found that biodiesel and other renewable energy sources are not 100% practical. Continue reading “Biodiesel: Fueling an Open Mind”