AMES, Iowa – Want to make a difference in your community? Consider helping Iowans with low income to access fresh produce and nutrition information. Growing Together Iowa mini grants are available to help purchase materials for Master Gardener volunteer donation garden projects. The mini grants, which are funded by the USDA SNAP-Ed Program, provide up to $4,000 in funding for eligible projects, and applications are due Dec. 18, according to Katie Sorrell, coordinator of the Growing Together Iowa grant with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
While food pantries continue to be an excellent resource for Iowans with low income, Sorrell explains that access to fresh fruit and vegetables and the accompanying nutrition information remains limited. “When we have asked food panty clients what food they would like to see in food pantries, fresh fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list,” said Sorrell. “All people and cultures enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, so we are meeting a real need.”
Growing Together Iowa mini grants aim to address this concern through two main strategies: engage and donate. The engage strategy connects food pantry clients with educational resources pertaining to gardening and nutrition, while the donate strategy focuses on bringing fresh produce to food pantries through donation gardens or by collecting excess produce from local producers. Allowable expenses include materials such as seeds and seedlings, soil and mulch, garden tools, lumber and hardware for raised beds.
To be eligible for funding, an Iowa State University or county extension staff person, active Master Gardener, and food pantry director must be involved in the application. Applications are limited to one per county extension office, or Iowa State department, but can include multiple gardens. More information on counties with active projects is available online.
As Sorrell explains, successful projects are a community effort. “I would say there are three main characteristics of successful projects,” she added. “First, there should be community support and a team behind the project. Having a large base of volunteers makes sure that one or two people aren’t solely responsible for building, planting and maintaining the garden.”
“The second thing is having a sustainable water source,” Sorrell continued, “and the third thing is a good relationship with a food pantry. What I love about this grant is that the food pantry clients and director tell the garden what to grow so that we are meeting whatever needs the community has.”
For more information about applying to the Growing Together Iowa Mini Grant program, including allowable and unallowable expenses, reporting requirements and other resources, visit the Growing Together Mini Grant Guidelines online or contact Katie Sorrell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Grant applications are due Dec. 18.
This project is funded by the USDA SNAP-Ed program.