University of Michigan students spend spring break volunteering with Unity Gardens

SOUTH BEND, IND.-- A group of students from the University of Michigan is passing up on a trip to the beach and instead spending spring break in South Bend.

It's part of the university's alternative spring break program, where students spend the week volunteering in a community and learning about social issues.

The 14 students stationed at Unity Gardens kicked the week off by painting bee boxes Sunday morning.

"It would be a little difficult to dig in the snow right now, although we will be getting out in the garden this week," said Sara Stewart with Unity Gardens. "So, we're preparing for our bees and to expand our 'Honey from the Hood.'"

This is the first year Unity Gardens was selected as a site for the program. Many students say this isn't their first time spending their spring break volunteering.

"I think going to Cancun is awesome and you're going to have a great relaxing trip," said Alex Scharf, a student site leader. "But, we learn so much and we can go back to our peers and teach them about what we learn. And, I think that's really valuable."

The students will also spend some time learning about the local culture in South Bend. Local restaurants and service groups are providing meals, while the DoubleTree downtown is putting the students up for the week.

Stewart says she hopes students walk away with a better understanding of how communities are dealing with the issue of hunger and how many people it affects.

"Hunger for me was really interesting because, growing up, I've always heard about hunger in another country, not so much here in the United States and like all around us," said student site leader Alex Grimm.

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