Healthy Food, Healthy Glow

by Amy M. Mente




It’s the middle of the semester. You’re tired. You’re stressed. You’re hungry. And you are starting to look kind of awful. One more bag of chips won’t kill you, but it won’t help, either. Fresh fruits and veggies can restore that healthy glow you had at the start of the semester. But those are hard to find, right? Or expensive.Usually both. Thankfully, Growing Food is here providing one solution this problem.




Growing Food is a nonprofit organization on a mission to bring fresh veggies right into your home or apartment or dorm. The organization was founded by two UCF grads- Jason and Jennifer Helvenston. Growing Food came around after the battle between the Helvenstons and the City of Orlando for the right to grow vegetables anywhere in a yard; they wanted vegetables to be more accessible to Orlando communities.


Veggies where I live?



Image of SIP
Image of SIP


Yes! With Growing Food’s Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPs), growing your own fresh veggies has never been easier. They require very little maintenance- you just water and wait. There’s very little risk of under-watering because of the clever design; the same clever design that also takes care of the possibility of over-watering. With careful harvesting, the SIPs are almost completely self-sustaining. And you can re-plant the seeds from the previous season.



Vegetables do, however, require lots of sunlight, which means the SIPs won’t be perfect for everyone’s dorm or apartment. But, the Helvenstons will try every angle before they give up on your veggie dreams! The size of a 55 gallon drum (which is roughly two feet in diameter), and measuring about a foot and a half high, SIPs’ are perfect for sunny porches- front or back.



An acronym usually implies expense…


Sometimes, yes. In this case though, I just find writing SIP easier than writing Sub-Irrigated Planter. There’s actually very little cost associated with the SIPs. The Helvenstons have different amounts set up as a suggested donation for each of their services. In this case, when the SIP is installed, you are presented with a document outlining the costs of the materials and time spent. The base price of the SIP is around $45. When you add in time spent, the suggested donation is around $65. If you want a specially-painted SIP (they do school colors, so you can get a Knights-themed SIP), because they require more materials and time, the prices increase to $55 and $75.


While these initial costs can seem more expensive than “cheap,, the amount of money and time you’ll save yourself (and maybe your friends!) is well worth the investment.


Is there some other way I can give?


Indeed there is. You can agree to become a Growing Food-planting-partner, which means that you’ll agree to donate some of your harvest back to the organization. Growing Food is partnered with many homeless shelters, abuse shelters, soup kitchens and the like in the area, and that’s where your donated food goes. Studies have shown that it’s not just students that benefit from fresh, healthy food.


Partnering with Growing Food can also mean agreeing to volunteer time to help plant or harvest other larger gardens or helping out with their instructional classes. And this partnership is easy to maintain; if you’re planning to give back to the organization by donating a portion of your fresh veggies, you simply have to call them when it’s time to harvest. The Helvenstons will then figure out the best way to get your veggies from your residence into the bellies of the deserving members of our local communities.


Okay. How can I get one?


Contact Jason and Jennifer Helvenston at or [email protected]