Growing Together Mini-Grants Awarded to 26 Iowa Counties

Grants totaling more than $90,000 designed to increase food security


two farmers with a truck of sweet cornAMES, Iowa – The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program has announced 26 recipients of its Growing Together mini-grant program. The projects will receive more than $90,000 in grant money through the SNAP-Education program.

The projects are focused on increasing food security throughout Iowa.

“These mini-grants highlight partnerships across ISU Extension and Outreach to increase access to healthy food,” said Susan DeBlieck, Master Gardener assistant coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “4-H, county fairgrounds and SNAP-Education are great partners to help Master Gardener volunteers donate to food pantries.”

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

“Iowa State SNAP-Education is proud to partner with the ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener program for another year of exciting work,” said Christine Hradek, coordinator of SNAP-Education at Iowa State. “It is exciting to see so many Iowa communities committed to increasing access to fruits and vegetables for their neighbors with low income.”

2018 county projects awarded grants funded through SNAP-Education

  • Black Hawk – Install new raised beds at Cedar Valley Community Garden, plant perennial berry bushes for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and plant additional fruit trees at the Cedar Valley Arboretum.
  • Boone – Plant and maintain a new food pantry donation garden, host educational classes to help low-income families learn about safe preparation of garden foods and conduct outreach to encourage other home growers to donate their produce to local food pantries.
  • Bremer – Maintain and expand existing donation gardens, plant apple trees and create new raised garden beds.
  • Buchanan – Connect surplus produce from the farmers market and local grocery stores to Independence Area Food Pantry. Increase community awareness via visible signage on donation collection bins and at the pantry about food donation opportunities.
  • Buena Vista – Maintain current donation gardens, add new fruit trees to existing orchard and add new community gardens for low-income populations. Work with 4-H'ers to build raised gardens for local low-income retirement homes and apartment complexes.
  • Cass – Assist with youth gardens at schools with high numbers of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches and the Anita Health and Wellness Center. Expand transport network for donated produce. Work with ISU Extension and Outreach to deliver educational programming for home gardeners on safe donating practices.
  • Cherokee – Create, grow and maintain a donation garden at the county fairgrounds with elementary school students.
  • Clayton – Maintain and expand a donation garden through new raised garden beds, row covers and compost system.
  • Dallas – Increase fruit and vegetable access at the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry while also expanding the Fruitful Vine Garden through the addition of more fruit production, soil amendments, cover crops and raised garden bed hoop covers.
  • Des Moines – Create and maintain a new donation vegetable garden and collect unsold produce at the end of weekly farmers market.  
  • Dubuque – Maintain and expand current donation garden sites through season extension with a new cold-frame structure, raised garden beds, mushroom cultivation and hydroponics system.
  • Hardin – Maintain and expand a donation garden and support 4-H youth in growing and planting seedlings for the garden.
  • Jasper – Expand donation garden to increase fresh produce in local food pantries.
  • Jefferson – Raised donation beds at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds will be used to teach youth and low-income individuals research-based growing practices through interactive, hands-on learning.
  • Johnson – Increase garden production and provide more produce to area organizations serving low income individuals and families in need. Project will include planting additional perennial fruits and vegetables at the Johnson County Fairgrounds donation demonstration garden.
  • Jones – Create and maintain a donation garden through hands-on educational opportunities that grow, distribute, and bring awareness to fresh fruits and vegetables.  
  • Linn – Expand and maintain donation gardens while also connecting with local farmers markets to encourage donation of extra produce.
  • Marshall – Engage youth and community partners to grow and distribute fresh produce to the House of Compassion food and meal program.
  • Monona – Engage youth and community volunteers to grow and maintain a donation and demonstration garden.
  • Muscatine – Expand and maintain donation gardens to benefit local food pantries. Volunteers also will support a local sweet corn freezing and packing event to benefit the Muscatine Food Pantry.
  • O’Brien and Osceola – Create and maintain a children’s donation garden in Osceola County, a community donation garden in O’Brien County and coordinate drop sites for community members to leave produce donations for delivery to area food pantries.
  • Polk – Increase production in six existing donation gardens with additional protective fencing and perennial fruit trees and plants.
  • Poweshiek – Create and expand donation gardens with a new site, new handicap accessible raised garden beds and planting more perennial produce.
  • Story – Maintain a garden at Beloit Children’s Home that teaches gardening skills to residents as well as collecting extra produce from farmers market vendors and individual gardeners in the county for donation.
  • West Pottawattamie – Maintain and harvest donation garden to supply fresh produce to the local free school summer lunch program and also the Care and Share pantry.
  • Woodbury – Build, plant and maintain new accessible raised garden beds at a low-income senior living facility as well as maintain existing donation gardens. Produce will be donated to local food pantries and low-income senior housing.

Over the last two years, Iowa Master Gardeners have donated nearly 145,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries through Growing Together mini-grants and demonstration gardens.