Growing Together Mini-Grants Awarded to 29 Iowa Projects

Funds help support food security and healthy eating across Iowa

February 19, 2020, 1:23 pm | Susan DeBlieck, Caitlin Szymanski, Christine Hradek

master gardener participants.AMES, Iowa – Twenty-nine county projects across Iowa will receive Growing Together Mini-Grants through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s SNAP-Education. This is the fifth year mini-grant funds have been made available to Master Gardener volunteers, resulting in more than 300,000 pounds of produce being donated in communities across the state.

The projects are focused on increasing food security and promoting healthy food access. Funding is made available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.

“Thanks to SNAP-Education funds, we are increasing the capacity of donation gardens,” said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener state coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Master Gardener volunteers are building strong partnerships to build community food security.”

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

County extension directors say the funds continue to make a positive impact on food accessibility in their communities.

“Muscatine County Master Gardeners are excited to partner with Iowa Master Gardeners and SNAP-Ed for a fifth year in our Growing Together gardens,” said Krista Regennitter, ISU Extension and Outreach Muscatine County director. “This funding allows us to continue the great work of growing fresh produce that will directly benefit low resource families in Muscatine County.”

In Dallas County, Master Gardeners grow produce for the Waukee Area Christian Services food bank.

“Everything grown in the garden goes to those in need in our county,” said Megan Will, Master Gardener coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach in Dallas County. “The garden is a great way to get more fresh vegetables to those who need it.”

In Marshall County, the funds are used to help nine garden donation locations run as smoothly as possible.

“Marshall County is excited to receive Growing Together Iowa Mini-Grant funds again this year,” said Chelsea L. Martens, Master Gardener coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach in Marshall County. “Grant monies go specifically towards the purchase of plants, seeds, new gardening tools and other items.”

2020 county projects

The following projects were awarded grants funded through the SNAP-Education program:

  • Benton – Plant and maintain a large urban farm turned community donation garden, which will benefit seven area food pantries and free meal sites. This project was created by The Old School Produce Partners and involves a wide range of community volunteers, businesses and organizations with close involvement and input from local donation sites.
  • Black Hawk – Partner with Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s community donation garden to increase produce production by installing additional raised garden beds and helping to maintain the existing garden. Project partners will also increase awareness about donation gardening and support opportunities for produce recipients to spend time in the garden when at the food pantry.
  • Boone – With the help of community partners, plant and maintain an ongoing food pantry donation garden and distribute educational materials to help low-income families learn about safe storage and preparation of garden produce.
  • Bremer – Maintain and increase production at the existing network of community supported donation gardens that donate to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and area free meals sites.
  • Buena Vista – Create new and expand current donation gardens in the community that benefit low-income senior housing and the Newell food pantry. The project will also do outreach and collect additional produce to donate at the local farmers market.
  • Cherokee – Partner with elementary school students to grow and maintain a donation garden at the county fairgrounds. Produce will be donated to local food pantries.
  • Clayton – Maintain and increase productivity at the donation garden that donates to the Clayton County Food Shelf. Partners will also work to increase interest and awareness in the community for individuals to donate additional produce to the Food Shelf.
  • Crawford – Establish and maintain a new community donation garden to benefit the local Temporary Aid Program food pantry. Partners will also work to increase interest and awareness in the community for individuals to donate additional produce to TAP.
  • Dallas – Increase fruit and vegetable access at the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry through maintaining and expanding the growing season at the Fruitful Vine donation garden.
  • Des Moines – Establish a new Burlington community donation garden with a farmstand, maintain the donation garden at Homestead 1839 and support gleaning at the local Farmers Market. Produce will be donated to a variety of food pantries, Section 8 housing individuals and free meal sites.
  • Dickinson – Maintain two donation gardens that benefit Upper Des Moines food pantry and several other food cupboards.
  • Dubuque – Maintain three donation garden sites that support the Dubuque Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and the Westminster Gardens.
  • Floyd – Support low-income families in maintaining community garden plots through hands-on support and educational opportunities. Additional produce will be donated to Jordan River Church food pantry.
  • Hardin – Expand and maintain the Eldora Community Garden to donate fresh produce to the Eldora Food Pantry. Partners will also provide hands-on garden and cooking educational events for food pantry clients in the garden.
  • Jasper – Maintain and increase productivity at the donation garden through building vertical trellises; produce will be donated to several local food pantries. Partners will also raise awareness and provide information to the community regarding local emergency food sites that accept produce donations.
  • Jefferson – Maintain and expand the donation garden by utilizing season-extension technology and building new raised garden beds. Produce will be donated to Lord’s Cupboard food pantry.
  • Linn – Relocate and expand the Marion Community Donation Garden including adding handicap accessible raised beds. Produce will be donated to the Marion Food Pantry.
  • Marshall – Expand and increase productivity at community donation gardens, while also increasing the number of produce donation sites. The project will also increase awareness for donation gardening at local Farmers Market.
  • Monroe – Increase the amount of donated food to Helping Hands food pantry and to NEST parents program by expanding and maintaining the donation garden at the ISU Extension and Outreach county office.
  • Montgomery – Maintain community donation garden plots and increase produce donated to three local food pantries.
  • Muscatine – Expand and maintain two community donation gardens to benefit Muscatine Community Food Pantry.
  • Osceola and O'Brien – Maintain and expand community donation gardens in Sanborn and Sibley, coordinate drop sites for community members to leave produce donations for delivery to area food pantries, and incorporate more youth in donation gardening efforts.
  • Polk – Maintain and increase productivity at three community donation gardens that benefit several local food pantries and free meal sites.
  • Poweshiek – Increase productivity of the Grinnell Giving Gardens by adopting new growing practices to extend the growing season and planting perennial fruits and vegetables. Produce is donated to community meal programs, a food pantry and directly to food insecure families.
  • Story – Maintain and increase productivity at the Beloit Children’s Home donation garden where produce is donated to the Beloit Children’s Home meal program, Bethesda Food Pantry and Food at First. This project also supports engaging and teaching gardening skills to the Beloit Children’s Home residents.
  • Tama – Establish and maintain donation garden plots that will not only produce vegetables to be donated to the South Tama Food Pantry, but also serve as a teaching tool and inspiration for community members to try growing their own produce to enjoy and donate.
  • Webster – Expand and increase productivity through new raised beds and vertical trellising at donation garden to benefit Lord’s Cupboard Shelter and Salvation Army. Project partners will also raise awareness about home donation gardening at various community events.
  • West Pottawattamie – Increase productivity at the community donation garden while also increasing the number of food donation sites benefiting from produce grown. Project partners will also raise awareness to encourage home donation gardening.
  • Woodbury – Expand and maintain accessible raised garden beds at low-income housing facilities as well as support garden food rescue and donation to benefit several local food pantries.


Original photo: Master Gardener participants.

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