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Healthy Campus Initiative grows in scope with community gardening event

The Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center organized a community gardening event Tuesday to teach staff members about growing their own food. (Emily Ng/Daily Bruin)

By Tyler Zhu

Feb. 19, 2019 11:38 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Mandy Muenzer was an HCI instructor. In fact, she is the FITWELL education and outreach coordinator and the vice president of wellness of the Staff Assembly

This post was updated Feb. 21 at 2:29 p.m.

A campus initiative is working to centralize the various health and sustainability projects on campus to tackle issues of physical, mental and emotional well-being.

The Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center at UCLA, a university program that works to promote healthy lifestyles, organized a community gardening event Tuesday in collaboration with the UCLA Staff Assembly.

Staff members gathered in the Jane B. Semel HCI Community Garden to listen to a presentation about growing food and to sample produce from the garden.

The event aimed to inform staff about how to grow their own food, said Mark Biedlingmaier, the special projects coordinator of HCI.

“Teaching those self-sufficiency skills of growing your own food is empowering,” Biedlingmaier said. “It’s a skill that I feel like people should know.”

Geno Mehalik, the vice president of programs for the staff assembly, said he organized the event to give employees information on resources for healthy living outside the workplace.

“There are so many wonderful resources on our campus available to the entire Bruin community, and I organized the event to promote a healthy work-life balance for all UCLA staff,” Mehalik said.

Greg Hatanaka, a cook at De Neve dining hall who attended the event, said he thought the event was informative.

“It gave me a better understanding that the garden is for the community, the staff and the students,” Hatanaka said.

In addition to ongoing efforts like Tuesday’s community gardening event, HCI has expanded its programming since its creation in 2013.

The HCI has sponsored several new programs in the past year, including the UCLA Piano Project and a space-activation initiative that aims to make the Court of Sciences a more leisurely space by adding chairs and tables.

HCI also helped create the Bruin Plate dining hall, supported the creation of a food studies minor and started the Mindful Music program, Biedlingmaier said.

Mandy Muenzer, FITWELL education and outreach coordinator and the vice president of wellness of the Staff Assembly, said she thinks there are enough resources on campus to help people live healthy lifestyles, but many students still do not know about them.

“HCI is there to bring the programs under a single brand,” Muenzer said. “We really don’t need to add more programs as much as we need to make people aware of existing programs.”

Biedlingmaier said HCI aims to centralize similar health and sustainability initiatives conducted by multiple groups.

“It’s too common that different groups are working on similar projects, but they’re so disconnected from each other that they don’t create the momentum and progress that they could if they were working under one umbrella,” he said.

He added he believes the initiative has become more well-known among students with each passing year.

“I think that we have successfully integrated in terms of reaching students, although we’re always looking to reach more,” he said.

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Tyler Zhu
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