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Student Union to hold contest for rooftop garden design

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Logan Cook | The Daily Wildcat

The Student Union Memorial Center during late afternoon on Jan. 18. The union is hosting a contest for the design of a rooftop garden.

Starting next year, the food you’re eating in the Student Union Memorial Center might be coming from right above your head.

The Arizona Student Unions are working with the Office of Student Engagement and the Graduate and Professional Student Council to make the idea of a union rooftop garden into a reality.

“The food that is grown would go back into feeding the restaurants within the Arizona Student Union, like Pangea, as well as Campus Pantry,” said Jessica Litvack, senior coordinator of student engagement and faculty programs.

The garden could reduce the need to bring in food from outside the university. Some of the fresh ingredients grown in the garden will be given to the UA Campus Pantry, an on-campus organization with the goal of reducing food insecurity in the UA community. The pantry holds distributions on Fridays where students and staff can have food for free.

The current goal is to wrap up planning for the garden by the end of April in order to build the garden over the summer and have it operating when school starts next August, Litvack said. The garden would be student-run, giving UA students interested in the environment or sustainability an opportunity to apply their knowledge in the real world and gain more experience. The garden will even be designed by UA students. 

Arizona Student Unions are having a rooftop garden design competition, sponsored by Shamrock Farms and Coca-Cola, where groups of up to five students can design and propose their ideas.

The winning group will have their design implemented and each member of the team will win $1,000 in meal plan money. Each member of the second and third place teams will win $500 and $100 in meal plan money, respectively.

Litvack said the teams will be required to do research in order to generate an implementable design. This includes taking into consideration things like the amount of weight the roof can hold and where the best place to buy materials is. Each group will also have a mentor assigned to help them through the design process.

RELATED: Student teams show off tech skills, ideas at Hack Arizona

“The idea is students designing something that is going to have a tangible impact on the university moving forward, but also has a service component to it,” Litvack said.

Cassidy Leroux, a pre-nursing sophomore and the director of training and development for the Residence Hall Association, thinks the rooftop garden is a great idea.

“I think it’s a good use of space,” Leroux said. “It’s a creative way to be more sustainable.”

Leroux said she would not be interested in personally participating in the design competition, but said that “it’s a really good idea and there are some students here who are capable of making it into something great.”

The UA Community Garden, founded in 2012, is an example of how successful projects like this can be. Jaclyn Mendelson, the manager of the garden, said it is completely student-run.

RELATED: UA Community Garden offers opportunities for students to grow“The garden serves two main purposes,” Mendelson said. “The first is food production, and the second is being an educational and community-building space for the university and the Tucson community.”

Mendelson thinks the competition is a great idea because it encourages students to think about where their food comes from and gives them the opportunity to get involved with it directly.

“I think any agriculture on campus sounds good,” Mendelson said. “It makes people think about how to garden in this region.”

Idrian Mollaneda, a junior studying political science and environmental studies, also thinks the garden would be a good addition to the campus.

“It all sounds like an exciting new opportunity for students to uniquely engage in gardening,” said Mollaneda, the chair of the Environmental Social Justice Committee of Students for Sustainability. “It will definitely help in making the university a more sustainable place. However, there is much more work to be done to create a truly sustainable university.”

There will be a kickoff event on February 3 at 6 p.m. in the Gallagher Theater for all interested teams to find out more details about the project.


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