Master Gardener Program Distributes Growing Together Grants

$70,000 awarded to 14 counties focused on increasing the amount of fresh produce donated to food pantries


AMES, Iowa – The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program has announced its 2017 Growing Together mini-grant awardees. The 14 chosen projects will receive a combined $70,000 in grant money through the SNAP-Education program.

The grants support Master Gardener projects focused on increasing the amount of fresh produce donated to food pantries. Two primary methods are used by volunteers – growing produce for donation and running programs to connect gardeners to food pantries.

community garden“Master Gardeners make a difference in Iowa,” said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener assistant coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “These grants provide support to Master Gardeners across the state as they continue their work to increase food security.”

To be eligible to receive a grant, applicants must be an active Iowa Master Gardener, have the support of their county ISU Extension and Outreach staff, and have strong partnerships with community organizations that serve Iowans experiencing poverty.

“SNAP-Education aims to make healthy choices easier for Iowans with low income,” said Christine Hradek, SNAP-Ed coordinator with ISU Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. “The participating Master Gardeners make fruits and vegetables easier to access throughout the growing season.”

2017 counties projects awarded grants funded through the USDA SNAP-Ed program

  • Black Hawk - Install a greenhouse at the Cedar Valley Community Garden and continue managing fruit trees planted at the Cedar Valley Arboretum for donation.
  • Bremer - Support the Waverly Community Sharing Garden and Janesville Housing Garden. Gardeners provide fresh produce to local church meal sites, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and residents of the Janesville Housing Project.
  • Cass - Assist with youth gardens at two schools and the Anita Health and Wellness Center. The transport network for donated produce will be expanded.
  • Clayton - Create and maintain a new donation garden with produce grown given to the Clayton County Food Shelf.
  • Dallas - Help increase the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry while also expanding the Fruitful Vine Garden through the addition of fruit production, soil amendments, cover crops and a pollinator garden.
  • Dubuque - Four gardens will partner to donate to multiple local food pantries. Will collectively launch a community-wide event to provide vegetable plants and instructions for people who will commit to donating their harvest to pantries.
  • Hardin - Focus on growing and delivering fresh produce to low-income families in Hardin County. Will also teach 4-H youth how to grow, maintain and harvest fresh produce.
  • Johnson - Partner with community organizations to increase garden produce production and provide more produce to area organizations serving low income individuals and families in need.
  • Linn - Create collaboration with the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program by creating a centralized distribution site using the HACAP food reservoir. Work with Buy.Eat.Live Healthy program as a resource for educating about growing, using and storing fresh produce.
  • Muscatine - Work to create, sustain and expand donation gardens to benefit local food pantries. Will also work with United Way and Monsanto for a sweet corn freezing and packing event to benefit the Muscatine Food Pantry.
  • Pocahontas - Create an indoor/outdoor classroom at Pocahontas Area School with seedlings of multiple varieties of fruits and vegetables grown. Produce from organically maintained local garden will be donated and distributed to several organizations.
  • Polk - Increase production in four existing gardens and assist with the start of one new community garden.
  • Poweshiek - Develop an outdoor classroom and working garden in Grinnell. Garden will include perennial food crops to compliment the annual vegetable garden.
  • Story - Continue to maintain garden at Beloit Children’s Home that teaches gardening skills to residents. Produce will be provided to the Bethesda Food Pantry.
  • Woodbury – Maintain existing donation gardens, offer extended public school garden opportunities with take-home container garden buckets and hold educational events to promote gardening as well as eating and preparing produce to help combat food insecurity.

Last year ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardeners donated nearly 70,000 pounds of produce to food pantries through Growing Together mini-grants and demonstration gardens.