GROWING TOGETHER to Address Food Insecurity

vegetables in a basket

Food Insecurity is real for many people living in Linn County. One in eight people struggle with hunger, including one in seven children. More than 25,000 individuals have been identified as living with not enough food to eat. For several years ISU Extension and Master Gardeners across the state have been working together to help alleviate food insecurity for our residents. Linn County Master Gardeners has been awarded their fourth GROWING TOGETHER mini grant for the 2019 growing season to help support this endeavor.
CONNECT, GROW, SHARE A ROW project is the partnership of Linn County Master Gardeners and the HACAP Food Reservoir. Fresh produce from personal gardens and 12 identified Master Gardener Community Garden Partners (Catherine McAuley, Tanager Place, Horizons, Marion Uptown, Hiawatha School, Wellington Heights Neighborhood, Lowe Park, New Bo, Dept. of Corrections, Southeast Linn Community Center, Prairiewoods and Olivet Neighborhood Mission) is donated to the Food Reservoir or local neighborhood food pantries for distribution. Every pound of produce makes an impact in the fight against hunger. Last growing season well over 5,000 pounds of fresh produce was grown and donated to address food insecurity.
The HACAP Food Reservoir’s mission is to feed hungry people across a 7 county service area (Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Jones, Johnson, Linn and Washing counties) through their 126 partner agencies (non-profit food pantries, service organizations or feeding programs). Annually it distributes over 6 million pounds of food through these partner agencies.
Fresh produce is integral in the fight against hunger. So what are some of the best vegetables to donate to food pantries? Some top recommendations are tomatoes, zucchini, winter squash, potatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, melons, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beans. It’s always a good idea to check with the food pantry prior to donating.
Just a few tips for donating produce..... 1) Handle fresh produce safely through personal cleanliness and equipment sanitation to minimize the risk of foodborne illness; 2) Offer high quality, freshly picked fruits/vegetables; 3) Do not donate produce that is overripe, bruised or spoiled or has mold or insect damage; 4) Use pesticides minimally and carefully, following label instructions; 5) Harvest produce early in the morning; and 6) Wipe or rinse mud/dirt from the produce. Avoid excessive washing as it removes some of the natural protective coating and will cause earlier spoilage.
The 2019 growing season is about to begin. You are invited to participate in our local CONNECT, GROW, SHARE A ROW project to reduce food insecurity within our local community. For more information about this exciting project and how you can be involved, please contact the Linn County Extension Office (377-9839) or the Linn County Master Gardener Hortline (447-0467).

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