AMES, Iowa – In the midst of record setting food pantry usage throughout the state, Growing Together Mini-Grants will provide fresh produce and nutrition education to pantries in 2023 through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s SNAP-Education program.
A total of 30 projects are being funded, with the goal of increasing food security and promoting healthy food access and nutrition education. This year, the Growing Together Iowa project will expand to five new counties. A map is available that shows where projects are funded.
Master Gardener volunteers plant donation gardens with partners, support their community with plant-a-row programs to get more produce into food pantries, and glean fresh produce from farmers markets and home gardeners. All produce is donated to local food pantries, food banks and other food distribution sites with accompanying nutrition education materials.
Growing Together mini-grants have been funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Education since 2016. This year, additional funding for Growing Together Iowa was provided by Amerigroup. Iowa was the first state to create the Growing Together model, which has been replicated in Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming and Montana. Over the past seven years, the mini-grants have resulted in fruit and vegetable donations of almost 650,000 pounds in Iowa.
“This project mobilizes communities to help people experiencing food insecurity in a very tangible way,” said Katie Sorrell, extension education specialist and project coordinator for Growing Together. “Growing Together helps food pantries expand their offerings to include garden fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“It is exciting to see this program expanding into new areas of the state and increasing its impact,” said Alicia Herzog, Master Gardener program coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “We know how taxed local food pantries are and the Master Gardener program is honored to play a role in helping our neighbors secure fresh produce.”
For more information, Katie Sorrell can be reached at email@example.com
Benton – Maintain a large urban farm-turned community donation garden and coordinate gleaning efforts that will benefit seven area food pantries with a goal of donating 15,000 pounds. Garden tours will be provided to food pantry clients.
Bremer – Increase production to 12,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to donate to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and local food pantries. The project will also partner with the food and health specialist to teach nutrition education classes at a church pantry.
Calhoun – Expand a wheelchair-accessible garden on-site at Opportunity Living with four additional raised garden beds that clients will plant and harvest. Produce will be donated to local food pantries.
Cerro Gordo – Increase supply of fresh produce at pantries in Mason City, Clear Lake and Rockwell. Food pantry clients will be invited to helping hours at the garden and nutrition education classes taught by a food and health specialist.
Crawford – Provide garden space for food pantry clients and increase the production of the Denison donation garden to benefit local pantries, including the Temporary Aid Program food pantry.
Dallas – Increase fruit and vegetable production at the Fruitful Vine donation garden for donation to the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry. Food pantry clients will be offered herb container gardening materials and education as well as invited to garden tours and to volunteer.
Des Moines – Maintain the donation garden plot at Homestead 1839 and the South High Demonstration Garden. Community gardeners will be encouraged to donate excess home produce and to volunteer at the community donation gardens.
Dickinson – Expand the two donation gardens to include space for pantry clients to grow their own produce. The gardens benefit Upper Des Moines food pantry and several other food cupboards.
Dubuque – Increase production of three donation gardens that support food pantry sites at the Dubuque Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and the Westminster Presbyterian Church. Efforts will include growing long-season plants, succession planting and companion planting.
Fayette – Increase production of the West Union donation garden and create a new donation garden in Oelwein. Produce will be donated to local food pantries, including the Open Hands Food Pantry and the Plentiful Pantry.
Floyd – Maintain the Clark Street Community Garden and support families with low-income in maintaining community garden plots through hands-on support and nutrition education opportunities. Project will also partner with a garden at a local business and with home gardeners for donations.
Franklin (new this year) – Increase availability of fresh produce at La Luz Centro Cultural food pantry through a donation garden. Garden volunteers will plant high yielding and culturally diverse produce. Pantry clients will be invited to nutrition education classes taught by the food and health specialist.
Harrison (new this year) – Create a donation garden with raised beds at The Crew Center in Woodbine that will engage older adults, elementary school children and high school students in volunteering. Produce will be donated to the Woodbine Community Food Pantry.
Jasper – Engage Master Gardeners and community volunteers in the DMACC garden to donate produce to the Food Pantry of Jasper County and DMACC Newton Campus Food Pantry. The project will offer educational opportunities for food pantry clients, including container gardening workshops, garden tours and nutrition education classes taught by a food and health specialist.
Johnson – Create a raised bed donation garden at the new Coralville Food Pantry location. Food pantry clients will be engaged through helping hours, garden tours, container gardening classes and nutrition education classes taught by the food and health specialist.
Linn – Maintain seven donation garden sites with a goal of 10,000 donated pounds to local food pantries including the Southeast Linn Community Center. Provide educational and volunteering opportunities for food pantry clients and promote donation of excess produce from home gardeners.
Lyon – Expand the donation garden to meet the produce needs of ATLAS of Lyon County. Opportunities for food pantry clients will be provided including container gardening workshops, garden tours and helping hours.
Mitchell (new this year) – Create a donation garden in Osage to benefit food pantry clients at the Osage Food Pantry and St. Ansgar Food Pantry. Local 4-H clubs will help build and maintain the garden and food pantry clients will be invited to participate in educational offerings and helping hours.
Montgomery – Increase production at three garden sites in Red Oak, Elliot and Stanton. Nutrition education classes and container gardening education will be provided for pantry clients at a number of local food pantries.
Muscatine – Increase production at the ISU Extension and Outreach Muscatine County office garden and two community donation gardens to benefit the Jesus Mission Food Pantry and Muscatine Community Food Pantry. United Way of Muscatine will partner with the gardens to offer volunteer opportunities.
O'Brien – Maintain donation gardens in Sanborn and Sheldon and collect excess home gardening produce donations. A container gardening class will be offered to food pantry clients at Love INC as well as “Pick Your Own” gardening opportunities.
Polk – Support an on-site food pantry garden at Caring Hands Food Pantry Garden with soil amendments, a hand washing station and consistent volunteers. Maintain the Enabling Garden in Altoona and the Demonstration Garden in Urbandale that donate to local food pantries.
Scott – Convert flower beds to vegetable gardening beds at a garden in Bettendorf to donate to six food distribution sites. A core group of volunteers will be recruited and container gardening classes will be offered to food pantry clients.
Story – Host weekly volunteer garden nights at the Beloit donation garden where produce is donated to Food at First. Food pantry clients will be engaged through garden tours and pick-your-own events.
Tama – Engage with food pantry clients through container gardening classes, "Spend Smart. Eat Smart." recipe tasting and a salsa making class. Community gardeners will be encouraged to “Grow Another Row” and donate produce to the South Tama Food Pantry and NE Tama Food Pantry.
Wapello (new this year) – Create a donation garden at the ISU Extension and Outreach Wapello County office to donate to the Lord’s Cupboard and the Food Bank of Iowa. Volunteers from the Master Gardener program 4-H, the NEST program, United Way and FFA will assist in the building, planting and harvesting of the garden.
Warren (new this year) – Create a donation garden in Indianola utilizing raised beds, in-ground planting and trellising systems. The produce will be donated to the Helping Hand Food Pantry where clients will be invited to container gardening activities and helping hours.
Webster – Expand and increase productivity through two new raised garden beds to benefit the Lord’s Cupboard food pantry and Salvation Army. Container gardening education and nutrition education led by the food and health specialist will be offered to pantry clients.
Winneshiek – Partner with the Decorah Community Food Pantry to donate produce as well as offer educational opportunities for pantry clients. Volunteers at the new donation garden on the ISU Extension and Outreach Winneshiek County office campus will plant, maintain and harvest vegetable donations.
Wright – Expand donation gardens in Clarion and Rowan with the help of food pantry clients, 4-H'ers, Clover Kids, elementary students and Master Gardeners. Food pantry clients will be encouraged to participate in five educational workshops and demonstrations, including container gardening and nutrition education.