Growing Together Iowa Receives Gift for Statewide Community Garden Project

Project supplies fresh produce to area food pantries

June 29, 2022, 11:27 am | Katie Sorrell

AMES, Iowa – Growing Together Iowa, a donation gardening and nutrition education project from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has received $20,000 from Amerigroup, a leading managed care company. This gift marks the second year of support for Growing Together Iowa provided by Amerigroup. The gift is supporting a statewide community garden initiative that will provide approximately 90,000 pounds of fresh produce to area food pantries. Amerigroup staff toured the Fruitful Vine garden on June 22, hosted by garden coordinator Julie Lins Robeson and Dallas County Master Gardener coordinator Megan Will.

Community garden project.Growing Together Iowa combines extension expertise in horticulture, food safety and nutrition education with a network of ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener volunteers to develop community donation gardens throughout the state. Fresh fruits and vegetables are grown, harvested and donated to local food pantries.

“This generous gift is supporting Iowans with low-income at a critical time,” said Katie Sorrell, policy, systems and environmental change coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “With additional SNAP benefits provided during the pandemic ending as of April 1 and the increased cost of food, food pantries are experiencing a significant increase in clients. Providing fresh produce to food pantry clients frees up SNAP dollars to use on other foods and provides a low-risk opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables.”

These funds will help meet a critical need, as one in eight Iowans lacks reliable access to healthy food, according to Feeding America.

“We have long championed for better access to nutritious foods in the communities we serve – understanding the integral link between healthy food options and its impact on overall health,” said Jeffrey Jones, Amerigroup Iowa president. “This unique partnership will continue to allow our associates to volunteer, build gardening skills and learn about food donation opportunities within our community.

"In addition, our clinical staff will conduct universal food insecurity screenings and interventions and refer members to food pantries receiving fresh produce from the program. As food insecurity continues to affect our communities, we remain committed to removing barriers and create sustainable change through bold action and collaboration with partners across the health ecosystem."

“Amerigroup’s contributions to Growing Together Iowa will expand Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s capacity to sustain existing projects and offer funds to high priority communities,” said Christine Hradek, who coordinates USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) for ISU Extension and Outreach.

In 2021, Growing Together Iowa volunteers harvested and donated almost 91,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to Iowa food pantries. Their efforts helped these organizations provide more than 275,000 servings of fresh produce for Iowans who were struggling financially. In addition,

  • 65,552 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was available.
  • 267 Master Gardener volunteers and 708 additional community volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa during the growing season.
  • 119 food pantries and distribution sites received produce as a result of this project.

Since 2016 when the Growing Together Iowa project began, 532,772 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to Iowa food pantries.

Growing Together Iowa is a SNAP-Education project funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and ISU Extension and Outreach. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. The program helps people buy nutritious foods for a better diet.

Since 2019, Amerigroup and its foundation in Iowa donated over $600,000 to local organizations and partners as a leading champion for direct community action and food relief initiatives.

Amerigroup’s funding contribution is through the Iowa State University Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State University.

Shareable photo: The Fruitful Vine garden.

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