AMES, Iowa – The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program distributed $21,000 in food security mini-grant funds in 2016 courtesy of Iowa State University’s SNAP-Education. SNAP-Education aims to make healthy choices easier for families with limited income. The mini grants provided funding to 16 county Master Gardener programs serving more than two dozen counties.
In all, over 90 Master Gardeners were involved in food security mini-grant projects, putting in more than 500 total volunteer hours. Together they were able to grow more than 58,000 pounds of produce that was donated to 50 food pantries and food banks. Additionally, Master Gardeners leveraged the grants into an additional $15,000 for their food security programs.
“Hunger is a wicked problem,” said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener assistant coordinator. “Thanks to the mini-grants, Iowa Master Gardeners used their volunteer time and funds to increase access to fresh produce at food pantries. The funds were used to buy seeds and plants for donation gardens. I can’t wait to find out what will be accomplished in 2017.”
Examples of grant money supported programs
Mulford Community Garden
The mini-grant allowed the Mulford Community Garden in Muscatine County to expand the number of families participating in the garden from 18 to 28. The garden produced 1,858 pounds of produce that was donated to a local food pantry. Additionally, a free produce stand was established while helping to stock Mulford’s emergency food pantry. The grant money also allowed for an upgrade in harvest practices through the purchase of plastic harvest lugs, baskets and two wash tables for cleaning harvested produce.
Waverly Community Garden
The Waverly Community Sharing Garden in Bremer County expanded to more than 15,000 square feet. The city plot produced 4,523 pounds of produce that was donated to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.
“Those of us in the Iowa State SNAP-Education program are so proud to partner with the Master Gardeners,” said Christine Hradek, coordinator of SNAP-Education with ISU Extension and Outreach. “Their skill, energy and dedication combined this year to produce impressive impacts. As our first mini-grant recipients, they have laid the groundwork for the strong work to come.”
Recipients of 2017 Master Gardener mini-grants will be announced on Feb. 8.