The Health Care Advocates for Sustainability smile for a photo in the NH Food Bank production garden.
Community News | 12/4/2023

Rewarding Work: Sustainability Student Group Digs in to Help at Food Bank Garden

By Jennifer Persons

The Health Care Advocates for Sustainability smile for a photo in the NH Food Bank production garden.

Members of the Health Care Sustainability Advocates student organization spent an afternoon volunteering at a community garden in New Hampshire.

The sun was shining after a stretch of November cold, and temperatures rose to 60 degrees. On this day, a dozen MCPHS students donned work clothes and gardening gloves to help prepare the New Hampshire Food Bank’s Production Garden in Manchester.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community we’re learning in,” said Faith Haley, MPAS ’24.

“Especially during the holiday season,” added Anishya Idicula, MPAS ’24.

The Health Care Advocates for Sustainability in Manchester prepared the NH Food Bank production garden for winter.
The New Hampshire Food Bank Production Garden provides food for hundreds of agencies that work to feed people across the state.

Haley and Idicula are co-presidents of The Health Care Advocates for Sustainability, a student-led organization based on the Manchester campus. Students spent an afternoon volunteering at the garden between classes, studying, exams, and clinicals. The produce grown there supplies food to more than 400 agencies and organizations across New Hampshire working to combat food insecurity.

The students were the last group of volunteers for the season. Like so many organizations, the garden suffered during the pandemic. This was the first year the Food Bank could maintain a full acre since 2020.

“They lost their volunteer base during the pandemic,” Idicula said. “Seeing how much volunteers do for this garden made me especially glad we came.”

Members of the Health Care Advocates for Sustainability spread winter rye seeds in the NH Food Bank production garden.
Student volunteers spread winter rye seeds across the garden beds, which will help enrich the soil in the spring.

Garden work—especially in the fall—is no easy task, and the student volunteers were ready to lend a hand. They spread winter rye seeds across the garden beds, which will add nutrients to the soil in the spring. They took stock of all the tools and equipment used in the garden, then neatly stored them in sheds on the property. They shoveled and moved the compost pile to keep it warm. And they dug into the garden beds, turning them over so they’ll be ready for new crops in the spring.

Though the work was physically demanding, they passed the time chatting about their experiences, studies, and plans post-MCPHS.

Linda Martino and an MCPHS students use shovels to turn over beds at the NH Food Bank Production Garden.
Shovels in hand, the volunteers were tasked with turning over the garden beds, which is a time-consuming and labor-intensive but necessary process.

After three hours of challenging work, the volunteers were tired but fulfilled.

“This one area helps so many people, and the Food Bank is dedicated to keeping this garden going,” Haley said. “We’re happy we can help.”

The Health Care Advocates for Sustainability was founded by physician assistant studies students but is open to all students from any program. It was formed less than two years ago but has led several new initiatives, including planting new trees and bringing a composting service to the Manchester campus. The trip to the garden was the first time the group branched out to support sustainability efforts in their community.

“Our generation is going to face the impact of the climate crisis, so we’re trying to fight that by being more aware, more active, and doing our part,” Idicula said. “Find something you’re passionate about and dedicate your time to it.”

They believe it is their responsibility to get involved as future healthcare professionals.

“It’s the little things you do every day, like recycling plastic water bottles or using a reusable bag at the grocery store instead of paper or plastic, that count,” Haley said. “If we all choose to do that collectively, it will make a big difference.”

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