The Hill is a Desert

 Source: Sally Dillon

Source: Sally Dillon

Coming to college brought many new experiences: Hello dining hall food, goodbye home-cooked meals. Guess all of a sudden I really do care about basketball like it’s life or death.  However, one experience I was not expecting was a curious craving of fruits and vegetables. All of sudden I was dreaming about roasted asparagus, and when I got my hands on bell peppers, I would eat three in a sitting. Somehow with all the free pizza, Luna bars, chips, sandwiches, and other food I gleamed from the dining halls and Franklin Street, I realized what was desperately missing from my palate. As someone who doesn’t have a car on campus, it was hard to satisfy my fruit and veggie appetite. I could get them if I went to Tru or ventured out to Med Deli, but what if it were a crazy day and I didn’t have time to walk to those places?

It’s typical to hear complaints about finding healthy, affordable food and that’s because Chapel Hill is classified as a food desert. A food desert lacks easily accessible healthy and affordable foods, meaning there are no local grocery stores to provide a consistent supply of fruits and vegetables to the Chapel Hill area. While this may have changed with Target opening in Summer 2017, the sheer price of the food still makes it inaccessible, especially for college students. After all, not everyone can spend $5-10 on fruit and vegetables every week.

 Source: Sally Dillon

Source: Sally Dillon

Let’s Go to Davis Library for Dinner

Thanks to the Edible Campus Garden, I can now stroll to the front of Davis, pick a couple of sweet peppers and be on my home and add them to a gourmet microwave-made omelet. According to their newsletter, Edible Campus is “a program of the North Carolina Botanical Garden that creates working landscapes across the UNC Chapel Hill campus to facilitate student engagement in topics of food and agriculture sustainability.” They are the little gardens that you may occasionally see around campus. These gardens are here for the students but often go overlooked. You can even take it a step further and not just reap, but also sow. Edible Campus has volunteer days every Thursday, and it’s an easy to get plugged in with nature and destress while also doing something productive.

“It’s cool to have a hands-on way on campus to be able to help with sustaining a garden that gives food back.” says Katie Starr, an Edible Campus volunteer and senior nutrition major.

 SourceL Sally Dillon

SourceL Sally Dillon

At first, I felt weird stopping in front of Lenoir (where there is a planter box) to get food instead of going inside. But once you realize how awesome this resource is and the wholesome food you can get all around campus, you too will be reaching into the bushes to get those peppers or parsley.

Cool, I have peppers what?

Here are three recipe ideas you can make with the food you find at the Edible Campus Gardens!

Vegetarian Paella

Ingredients: rice, peppers (Lenoir), tomatoes (Stacy), basil (SASB), okra (Lenoir)

Directions: fry some vegetables in a pan using olive oil. Combine with rice. If you don’t have a rice maker, here’s an easy way to make microwavable rice. Add as many spices (such as cayenne pepper, basil, chili powder) as you wish while mixing the rice and vegetables in.


Blueberry Cinnamon Oatmeal

Ingredients: oatmeal mix, blueberries (Lenoir)

Directions: Pretty simple for this one, just add this delicious fruit to an instant oatmeal mix to give it a tangy burst. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top for added sweetness.

Breakfast Pita Pocket

Ingredients: tortilla, grated cheese, 2-3 eggs, basil (Stacy), chives (Davis), parsley (Rams Head), kale (Rams Head), chard (Lenoir)

Directions: Scramble eggs in a cup along with the shredded cheese and any other herbs. Herbs can be chopped up or finely ground in a food processor. Microwave for 2 minutes. Toast your pita pocket and spoon your egg from the mug into the pocket. Finish it off by sprinkling some kale or chopped chard on top. Bon appétit!

*Disclaimer: Always make sure to wash your vegetables, and feel free to explore your own recipes!

There are many opportunities to take advantage of during your four years at UNC. Why not take advantage of the little free farmers’ markets tucked between UNC’s academic buildings and dining halls? So next time you’re in a fuss because you want to add some green to your diet, but eating like a healthy adult is too difficult and pricey...romaine calm because the Edible Campus gardens have has got you covered.

More details on the types of foods in season and where to find them can be found in the Edible Campus Newsletter:

Also check out the map for general garden locations.