Community Engagement from the Ground Up: An Interdisciplinary Service-Learning After-School Garden Program


  • Shari E. Miller University of Georgia
  • Jung Sun Lee University of Georgia
  • David Berle University of Georgia



Community Engagement, Food Insecurity, Higher Education Challenge Grant, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Local Food Systems, School Gardens, Service-Learning, Sustainability


Through the vehicle of community engagement, and with a commitment to ecological sustainability, the University of Georgia has made a series of efforts to support a growing local food movement through education, research, and service. This paper focuses on the development of a comprehensive after-school garden program with direct links to the university via interdisciplinary service-learning mechanisms. The university is located in a county with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. With a commitment to creating innovative, community-empowered approaches to addressing poverty and related food insecurity, an interdisciplinary group of university faculty, in collaboration with community partners, came together to develop a sustainable after-school garden program. Students from three disciplines (foods and nutrition, horticulture, and social work) are placed in after-school sites to work with elementary school students to establish, support, and grow food gardens. This paper discusses the development process of the program. Anecdotal successes, challenges, and opportunities between, within, and across various systems are explored.


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Author Biographies

Shari E. Miller, University of Georgia

Assistant Professor; BSW Program Director; School of Social Work, University of Georgia.

Jung Sun Lee, University of Georgia

Assistant Professor; College of Family and Consumer Sciences; Foods and Nutrition; University of Georgia.

David Berle, University of Georgia

Associate Professor, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Horticulture Department, University of Georgia.



How to Cite

Miller, S. E., Lee, J. S., & Berle, D. (2012). Community Engagement from the Ground Up: An Interdisciplinary Service-Learning After-School Garden Program. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2(3), 121–135.



Food Systems and Higher Education Call Papers