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Project Name:  UNI Panther Plot Garden on Wheels
Project Purpose (Include city and state):  The UNI Panther Plot is the University of Northern Iowa’s student-run garden. The purpose of the Garden on Wheels project is to provide nutritious, sustainable, and locally grown produce to the surrounding community at affordable prices. At the same time, this project will provide education about nutrition and raise awareness about healthy lifestyles. To help meet the Garden on Wheels project goals, the UNI Panther Plot team has identified a number of steps to success. The project will involve the creation of a mini-greenhouse as well as custom fabrication of a mobile, bicycle-powered produce stand. The Garden on Wheels will transport produce to the surrounding community and serve as an educational tool. It will also become a visual symbol highlighting the University of Northern Iowa’s commitment to health and wellbeing.

In 2013, a group of ten motivated second year students proposed the idea of creating a one-half acre student run garden in the middle of the University of Northern Iowa campus.

Their goals were to:
-Provide a sustainable, long-term garden for the University
-Provide fresh, local produce to the University community
-Donate a portion of the produce to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank
-Provide an opportunity for the local and University community to collaborate on a healthy outdoor activity.

The first summer of gardening in 2013 was a learning experience for everyone involved. For the year, 1400 pounds of produce was harvested and served in the University Dining Centers, sold on campus to the University community through the garden produce stand, or given to the local community through a variety of outlets. The Panther Plot also educated the local community about healthy nutrition options through garden tours, classes, and community outreach events such as the University Harvest Festival.

At the current rate of production, it is estimated that the Panther Plot will exceed 2013 production by roughly 45 percent. If this trend continues, there will be a persistent need to ease the access of this fresh produce to the local community. Currently, produce is hauled one wheelbarrow full at a time to the stationary garden produce stand in central campus. Employing the Panther Plot Garden on Wheels will heed several benefits. First, because the Garden on Wheels will be retrofitted to a bicycle, produce will be much easier to transport and can be pedaled to any location on campus. This will give students who don't pass by the Student Union access to the produce stand. Next, the cart will be a visual symbol of the commitment to a healthy lifestyle and continue to get more people out and active. Finally, the mobile stand can be used for education and promotion of healthy nutrition on campus and at local events. Professional nutrition presentations on campus will also be incorporated.

This project will be based out of the University of Northern Iowa Campus in Cedar Falls, Iowa, 50613-50614.
City:  Cedar Falls
Project Location:  Cedar Falls, Iowa
Target population and how they will benefit:  The UNI Panther Plot Garden on Wheels project will enhance the community of nearly 14,000 students and employees at the University of Northern Iowa, as well as have lasting effects in the greater Cedar Valley. Those directly on and near campus will have access to local, sustainably grown produce from the Panther Plot. The mobile garden cart will also have many uses that will impact the greater community. It will be available to a number of programs at UNI that focus on local food and nutrition such as the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Partnership, UNI Dining Services, the UNI Health Promotion Program, and many more.

Additionally, the University of Northern Iowa participates and acts as a partner in a number of community events and celebrations throughout the Cedar Valley. The Garden on Wheels will be used as a mobile learning center and promotional tool providing education about food and nutrition to local citizens and encouraging them by example to live a healthier lifestyle.

As an institution of higher learning, it is important to educate the members of our community both inside and outside the classroom. This project will bring in a professional nutritionist to provide nutrition and healthy eating seminars through our athletic department, as well as a session open to the community.
Why your project deserves the funds:  The University of Northern Iowa is committed to being a healthy community. As a Blue Zones employer, we are dedicated to not only promoting healthy living, but also to offering a variety of opportunities to achieve such a lifestyle. Through our commitment to local foods in both purchasing locally and building the infrastructure for a local food economy, UNI has gained much experience in maintaining sustainable food initiatives.

Through the creation of the Panther Plot, UNI students and employees have recently been able to help introduce the concept of local and sustainable food that was not prominent on campus in the past. Our students, faculty, and staff can now purchase food grown on campus as well as have an opportunity to gain gardening experience. These elements combined have impacted campus in a very positive way.

One year ago, UNI held its first Harvest Festival. The event drew nearly 500 people from campus and the local community and raised a great deal of awareness about gardening, sustainability, and community engagement. During the festival, a group of electronic media students chronicled the event by interviewing students, faculty, and staff. Their video was sent on to the Food Network as a request to send someone to our campus to teach us more about food and nutrition. As a result of this, a Food Network star will be visiting campus during our second annual Harvest Festival on September 4th, 2014. At that event, we want to unveil our plans to expand production and make food more readily available to the community.

This grant would accomplish that goal and bring the idea of healthy living and balanced nutrition to the forefront of our University community. UNI is an instrumental cog in the local food economy. With one of our premier academic focuses being to train educational professionals in healthy and sustainable living, the Garden on Wheels project will have a ripple effect that goes far beyond UNI's campus.
Project Timing:  All infrastructure for this project will be completed during the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015. There will be long-lasting benefits to the University of Northern Iowa and the local community for the foreseeable future.

Timeline:
-October – November ‘14 – Construct a mini-greenhouse adjacent to the UNI Panther Plot.

-October – November ‘14 – Custom fabrication of Garden on Wheels produce cart for Panther Plot.

-November ‘14 – January ‘15 – Design and application of custom logos for the Garden on Wheels.

-February – March ‘15 – Garden on Wheels on public display in various academic buildings around campus.

-March ‘15 – First plantings in mini-greenhouse.

-March ‘15 – Professional nutritionist to visit campus and present seminars to student athletes and public.

-April ‘15 – First garden produce stand of the year during the UNI Earth Day celebration.

-Summer ‘15 – Participate in community events in the Cedar Valley including community parades and celebrations.

-Late summer through fall ‘15 – Ongoing produce sales throughout the UNI campus as harvests allow.

-Ongoing – Maintain presence seasonally at produce stand and continue involvement in community events and University outreach efforts.
State:  Iowa
Organization Name:  University of Northern Iowa
 
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