CLEMSON – A group of Clemson University students is helping others on campus have access to fresh vegetables by planting a community garden they call The Lunchbox Garden Project.

Clemson students planted these vegetables and others in the courtyard area of Young Hall for people to pick and eat whenever they want to.
Image Credit: Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Science

The community garden is planted in the “shoebox” courtyard area of Young Hall. The students are in associate professor Dil Thavarajah’s Horticulture 4560 class (Spring 2017). Vegetables in the garden will be ready to pick this spring.

“This project was initiated as a part of the HORT 4560 requirement to develop an extension bulletin to promote healthy home gardens to combat obesity and micronutrient malnutrition,” said Thavarjah, adding the project was an idea of Gary Gaulin, Clemson associate director for sustainability in the Housing and Dining Department.

“When I heard about the Lunchbox Garden concept, I was very excited,” Gaulin said. “One time, a plum tree was planted in that area by students who wanted to honor a custodial supervisor who had ‘adopted’ the boys of Benet Hall. I benefitted from that tree when its fruit made it to my father-in-law’s kitchen and jelly was produced for the enjoyment of the family. I have never forgotten the feeling of eating food produced from that tree.

“I hope that students will get the same feeling I did when they consume great food produced from the Lunchbox Garden.”

Rachel Edwards, a senior horticulture major from Charleston, and Shannon Gallagher a senior horticulture major from Pawley’s Island developed this original idea as a class project. Now, this project is implemented as a part of the Tiger Garden Creative Inquiry project to promote dietary fiber and micronutrient intake using leafy greens such as kale and pulse crops to combat obesity and overweight. The Garden will be maintained by horticulture students.

Frances Schueren, a freshman food science and human nutrition major from Philadelphia, said this garden is a way to promote healthy eating to combat obesity.

“This is an excellent way for students to have access to fresh vegetables on campus,” Schueren said. “It is a huge step forward for the nutritional profile of Clemson.”

The garden also offers convenience, said Angela Sterling, a sophomore plant and environmental sciences major from Red Bank.

“The dining hall is great, but if someone wants to eat a salad at 9:30 at night and the dining hall is closed, they can come to this garden, pick fresh vegetables and make a salad,” Sterling said.

Elizabeth Reid, a freshman plant and environmental sciences student from Easley, said the garden also serves as an educational tool.

“This is a good way for people to see where their food comes from and how easy it is to eat healthy foods,” Reid said.

Shannon Robert, a faculty-in-residence who lives in Young Hall said she can’t wait for the garden to start yielding fresh vegetables.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Robert said. “It will be nice to see people picking vegetables to eat.”

Vegetables planted in and planned for the garden include: green onions, peas, sweet potatoes, spinach, zucchini, snap beans, pole beans, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, kale and lettuce. Once the plants emerge and start producing vegetables, people are encouraged to pick and eat this fresh produce.

“This was a combined effort among all of the students involved in this project,” Thavarajh said. “They planned the garden and everything associated with planting and caring for the vegetables. This is their project.”

This garden is an extension of the Tiger Gardens, a Creative Inquiry project, which began in the Spring 2016 semester, and is supported by Clemson Cooperative Extension Service and the Creative Inquiry program.

Other students participating in the project include: Grayson Younts, a sophomore plant and environmental science major from Greenville; Bailey Nicolas, a senior genetics major from Rock Hill; Savanah Dale, a sophomore plant and environmental sciences major from Aiken and Meredith McSwain, a senior plant and environmental sciences major from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Information about the project shows the aim of the community garden is to help people “incorporate more raw vegetables, which have a higher nutritional content than cooked counterparts. By implementing a U-pick program with the neighboring dorms, students will be encouraged to eat more raw vegetables that will positively influence their health.”

Eating more vegetables has been found to improve human health. Information from the United States Department of Agriculture shows people who eat more vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of the human body. The USDA’s MyPlate programlists daily eating vegetables as one of the top things people can do to create a healthier eating style. The amount of vegetables each person needs depends on age, gender and level of physical activity. For more information, go to