To engage students with their food system and fight hunger through sustainable urban agriculture in Downtown Tacoma.
The Giving Garden at the University of Washington Tacoma strives to eliminate food insecurity among students by connecting them back to their food system through hands on experience with fresh food, grown by students, for students. Through its partnership with The Pantry at UW Tacoma, the university’s on-campus food bank, the garden is able to deliver local produce directly to students in need. The Giving Garden makes space for community through volunteer opportunities, events, and by connecting people to nature and agriculture in Tacoma’s urban core. The Giving Garden stands as a hub for sustainability, research and demonstration for the larger community.
Established in 2009, the Giving Garden has served the Tacoma community by growing fresh produce for food banks and connecting volunteers to their food system.
In December 2008, the Environmental Science and Studies program at UW Tacoma applied for a mini-grant through the Green Partnership Fund (administered by Pierce Conservation District) to establish an Institute for Service to the Community and Environment. The grant was awarded and professor Jim Gawel worked with students to build the Giving Garden as an urban garden at the University of Washington Tacoma.The garden was established on a lot adjacent to the Whitney Parking Lot (1751 Fawcett Ave Tacoma, WA 98402) with a modest four raised garden beds. When the University Y (a student center built in partnership with UW Tacoma and the YMCA) was built in 2014 the garden was forced to move and start over on a new lot, located on the corner of Fawcett and 21st. At the moment there isn’t a permanent place allotted for the Giving Garden in the ‘Real Estate Master Plan’ of campus and the piece of land it currently sits on is intended to be developed. We are working to change this by making it a more productive, visible, and impactful part of campus.
In 2013, Dr. Christine Stevens, a faculty member at the University of Washington Tacoma, conducted a study on food insecurity. Dr. Stevens’ study showed that one-third of students on UW Tacoma’s campus experience some level of food insecurity, meaning they have limited to no means of obtaining healthy food options. This research led to the creation of The Pantry in 2016, an on campus food bank that provides free food and hygiene items to students. The Giving Garden has partnered with the Pantry since then to help provide students with fresh produce.
In 2015 through 2016 the S.H.E.D. (Sustainable Hub for Education and Demonstration) was constructed at the Giving Garden’s new location. This structure is an example of sustainable agriculture with a a hempcrete (concrete made with the hemp fibers) wall and living roof. The living roof was installed by the a group of volunteers on the 2017 Day of Caring hosted by the Center for Service and Leadership. The S.H.E.D. project was the vision of a graduate student at Clover Park Technical College, Dan Smith, who worked with Thomas Duke, the UW Tacoma Annual Giving Officer, to crowdsource the funds to make it a reality.
In 2020-2021 the Giving Garden has continued to grow and create a sense of permanence with the addition of several infrastructure projects including: the addition of raised garden beds, taking our numbers to over 50 beds, a greenhouse and parameter fencing. In 2021 alone the garden donated over 400 lbs of produce to the Pantry and other local food banks.
One of the most beautiful things about the Giving Garden is its capacity to grow. We have a rich history of passionate individuals believing that this space could be more and we will continue that legacy as we build better infrastructure, host more events and activities and engage more meaningfully with our campus and community.