UT librarians sell plants to raise money for health initiatives

Niq Velez

Library employees sold cacti, bromeliads and other plants outside the Perry-Castaneda Library on Wednesday as part of the Hearts of Texas Campaign, a recurring initiative every October to incite charitable donations from UT employees.

UT Libraries spokesman Travis Willmann said the library faculty is directly involved in the campaign, taking the plants from their own gardens.

“Most of the items sold at these events are made — or in the case of the plants, grown — by our 300 staff members,” Willman said.

The event raised $811 for the Sustainable Food Center, which seeks to increase Austinites’ access to local, healthy and affordable food. The center is about $300,000 away from having enough funds to build a $4.5-million facility in East Austin, according to the organization’s website.

Milly Lopez, a staff member at the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said she is happy about the progress the Hearts of Texas campaign has made.

“We are one and a half weeks in and we’re already at 25 percent of our $615,000 contribution goal,” Lopez said. “We have both contribution and participation goals, but participation is our main focus.”

Gregory Vincent, vice president of the division, said he was optimistic about the rest of the month.

“It’s going extremely well, considering it’s still in the beginning stages,” Vincent said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the university community to display our commitment to the Austin community through our generosity.”

UT librarian Kat Strickland said she has always loved gardening and this was an opportunity to use her skills for a good cause.

“We decided to support the Sustainable Food Center because we support farmer’s markets,” Strickland said. “They’re the reason food stamps can be used at farmer’s markets — making local and nutritional food more available to the disadvantaged.”  

Strickland said eating processed food may be the more convenient decision, but it is not worth the costs.

“Making your own food is generally a lot cheaper than buying a meal — but growing your own food is even more so,” Strickland said.

Max Elliott, executive director of Urban Roots, said a large portion of the city’s population — mainly in East Austin — features elevated levels of diet-related disease. Elliott said many young people do not realize where their food originates from.

“Changing the environment from a public health perspective — so that there are more urban farms than fast food restaurants — would alleviate a lot of these problems,” Elliott said.