Nutrition and Dietetics Installing Hoop House in the Urban Garden

The department of nutrition and dietetics' Hoop house construction at Saint Louis University
A hole is dug in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics' garden for the geothermal heating and cooling system to be installed.

Earlier this month, the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics broke ground on a solar powered hoop house in the urban garden. A hoop house is a relatively inexpensive and popular method of extending the growing season for farmers. Hoop houses are typically unheated, passive solar greenhouses that can extend the growing season for vegetables in cold climates. However, the SLU hoop house will have a geothermal, solar powered, heating and cooling system which will change the temperature of the soil below the crops.

Initially funded by the Saint Louis University Center for Sustainability's Sustainability Research Fund and the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, and primarily investigated by Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D., chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics, the goal is to test the feasibility of elongating the growing season, potentially up to all-year. Typically, in Missouri, a hoop house will still not allow for 12 full months of growing. At least two months are too cold and 1-2 months are too hot for specialty crop production. Use of the geothermal heating and cooling in the hoop house will potentially mediate temperature swings, and hopefully make the hoop house producing 12 months a year.

Mildred MAttfeldt-Beman, Ph.D., R.D., Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University
Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, Ph.D., R.D., Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics

A vermiculture environment, or composting via worms, will also be housed within the hoop house to provide additional compost from solid food waste generated at Fresh Gatherings Cafe and Health Eating with Local Produce Food Innovation Center. The worms will be fed solid food waste, starting at one end and then 'led' to the opposite end of the trough with solid food waste. As the worms move down the trough in the center of the hoop house, castings will build up behind them. These castings can then be laid directly on the plants.

Additionally, the department will work with SLUCare's New Hope Clinic; Marcia Sokol-Anderson, M.D. of the School of Medicine; and Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College for Public Health & Social Justice to establish an intervention program for HIV patients to test the impact on virologic suppression. The amount of HIV in the blood is the most commonly used indicator to measure the effect of HIV medications on disease progression. Research also suggests that participating in gardening related activities can significantly increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and the moderate exercise will provide a positive impact on stress reduction. The hoop house's year round growing season will also supply the HIV participants with fresh produce year round.

Students from the mechanical engineering program in Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology performed the initial thermal load calculations and will be involved in monitoring the effectiveness of the design.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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