AMES, Iowa – In a time of economic difficulty and special need, a record number of communities across Iowa are slated to receive Growing Together Mini-Grants through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s SNAP-Education program.
A total of 32 projects are being funded, with the goal of increasing food security and promoting healthy food access.
Growing Together mini grants have been funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Education since 2016. Iowa was the first state to create this model, which has been replicated in Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming and Montana. Over the past five years, the mini-grants have resulted in food donations of over 434,729 pounds.
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.
“It continues to amaze me how Extension Master Gardener volunteers have built partnerships to increase fresh produce donations to food pantries,” said Susan DeBlieck, master gardener program coordinator. “I am so grateful that the Growing Together projects were already on the ground to respond to increased food pantry need in 2020.”
The projects took on renewed importance in 2020, due to the COVID pandemic and economic challenges. Counties responded with creativity and determination.
“The Growing Together Iowa team was very impressed with the awardees this past year,” said Katie Sorrell, extension education specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Despite a derecho, drought and a pandemic, the Growing Together Iowa counties pivoted to donate fresh fruits and vegetables at food pantries in creative ways.”
This year, the Growing Together Iowa team received a record number of applications, including eight new counties that have never applied before. A map is available that shows where projects have been funded in the past.
For more information, Sorrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benton – Maintain a large urban farm turned into a community donation garden that will benefit 11 area food pantries with a goal of donating 12,000 pounds. 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 the Cedar Valley Arboretum to increase fruit tree production in the orchard for donation to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Project partners will also support opportunities for produce recipients to spend time in the orchard and tour the arboretum.
Bremer – Increase production to 10,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables at an existing network of community supported donation gardens that donate to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Project will conduct outreach and marketing for volunteer opportunities at the local farmers market.
Buena Vista – Create new and expand current donation gardens in the community that benefit senior housing for residents with low income and the Newell food pantry. Project will provide garden space for individuals to grow their own produce.
Calhoun – Increase produce donations to New Opportunities food pantry through “Grow an Extra Row,” garden space for food pantry clients and expansion of a donation garden. Project will conduct gardening classes.
Cerro Gordo – Increase production with high yielding and easy to grow crops at donation gardens in Mason City and Clear Lake. Additional produce will be gleaned from local farmer’s markets and through the invitation to gardeners to “Plant Another Row” for donation.
Clayton – Maintain and increase productivity by adding a raised bed at the donation garden that donates to the Clayton County Food Shelf. Recipes and nutrition information will be available at the garden.
Clinton - Partner with MercyOne Health – Clinton to create two community gardens with space reserved for families with low income. Additional produce will be donated to food pantries in Clinton and DeWitt.
Crawford – Increase production at donation gardens by installing raised garden beds, row covers, and fruit trees to benefit the local Temporary Aid Program (TAP) food pantry. Partners will also ask gardeners to donate produce to TAP.
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 invited to garden tours.
Des Moines –Maintain the donation garden plot at Homestead 1839, update raised beds at the South High Demonstration Garden and glean produce from the farmers market. Produce will be donated to Community Action of Southeast Iowa and a free meal site.
Dickinson – Plant two donation gardens that benefit Upper Des Moines food pantry and several other food pantries. A garden tour will be conducted this summer to showcase the produce.
Dubuque – Maintain three donation gardens that support food pantry sites at the Dubuque Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and the Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Floyd – Support families with low income in maintaining community garden plots through hands-on support and educational opportunities. Additional produce will be donated to Messiah’s Food Pantry.
Hardin – Expand and maintain Eldora Community Garden to donate fresh produce to the Eldora Food Pantry. Volunteers will also host “pick your own” garden events for food pantry clients.
Jasper – Increase donation garden production by installing vertical trellises and succession planting. Partners will also create and distribute food access directories to local growers and businesses to encourage produce donation to food pantries.
Linn – Maintain donation gardens at Southeast Linn Community Center and Lester Buresh Wellness Center and provide educational opportunities for food pantry clients. Produce will be donated to the Southeast Linn Food Pantry.
Lucas – Create a raised bed donation garden at the Lucas County ISU Extension and Outreach office to meet the produce needs of the Interchurch Ministry Center Food Pantry in Chariton. Education will be provided at the garden site and the pantry.
Monroe – Increase the amount of donated food to Helping Hands food pantry, NEST parents program, and Brees Rest Home by maintaining a donation garden at the ISU Extension and Outreach Monroe County office.
Montgomery – Create a new Giving Garden and increase production at current garden sites by planting perennial fruits and vegetables. Produce will be donated to local food pantries and food pantry clients will be invited to garden tours.
Muscatine – Expand and maintain two community donation gardens to benefit the Jesus Mission food pantry and Muscatine Community Food Pantry.
Osceola and O'Brien – Maintain and expand community donation gardens in Sanborn and Sibley and encourage youth participation in the gardens. Coordinate drop sites for community members to leave produce donations for delivery to area food pantries.
Page – Establish a community garden at Azria Health long-term care facility for donation to the local food pantry in Clarinda. Garden plots will also be available for food pantry clients to grow produce.
Plymouth – Create and establish donation garden to benefit the Rejoice Community Church in Le Mars with fresh produce. 4-H clubs and local YMCA youth will participate in garden tours and construct the raised beds.
Polk – Maintain and increase productivity at gardens that benefit local food pantries including the Enabling Garden in Altoona and the Demonstration Garden in Urbandale. Updates to the gardens will also expand volunteer opportunities to individuals with limited mobility.
Scott – Convert two demonstration gardens at the Scott County ISU Extension and Outreach office to vegetable gardens to benefit six local food pantries. Increase community outreach with educational programming.
Story – Increase productivity to 3000 pounds of fresh produce at donation garden that goes to Beloit Children’s Home meal program, Bethesda Food Pantry and Food at First. This project also supports engaging and teaching gardening skills to youth.
Tama – Equip food pantry clients to grow vegetables at home by offering plants, supplies and resources. Community gardeners will be encouraged to “Grow Another Row” for donation to the South Tama Food Pantry.
Webster – Expand and increase productivity through new raised beds and trellising at the Webster County Donation Garden to benefit the Lord’s Cupboard Shelter and Salvation Army. Invite gardeners to grow an extra row for donation to food pantries.
West Pottawattamie – Increase productivity at community donation garden for donation to food pantries and establish a raised bed garden at the Story Street Pantry. Partners will also promote container gardening to food pantry clients and gleaning opportunities to local farmers.
Woodbury – Create a new raised bed donation garden at the Siouxland Community Health Center. The project will also support garden food rescue and donation to benefit several local food pantries.
Wright – Maximize two garden plots at the Clarion community garden to benefit First Lutheran Church Food Pantry. Food pantry clients will also be encouraged to container garden and participate in education workshops and demonstrations.
Original photo: Master gardeners.