Central Iowa residents benefit from Growing Together Iowa Mini-Grants

Altoona, Iowa (October 30, 2023) – The Growing Together Iowa Mini-Grant program helps local food pantries grow fresh produce and provides nutrition education through Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach’s SNAP-Education program. For the eighth year in a row, the Polk County Master Gardener volunteer program was a recipient of the mini-grant. The funds supported an on-site food pantry garden, specifically improving its soil quality, as well as continued maintenance on existing Polk County food pantry gardens. The grant investment resulted in over 5,500 pounds of fresh produce grown in four food pantry gardens which were then donated to seven local food pantries. Those pantries include: 

  • Caring Hands in Altoona
  • Hope Ministries in Pleasant Hill
  • Caring Hands Eastview in Des Moines
  • Vineyard Church Pantry in Des Moines
  • Urbandale Food Pantry in Des Moines
  • Waukee Area Christian Services in Waukee

The goal of the Growing Together Iowa project is to support families and individuals struggling with food insecurity while promoting healthy food access and nutrition education. The project encourages collaboration between the local ISU Extension and Outreach office, the Master Gardener program, and area pantries. Master Gardener volunteers plant donation gardens with partners and then all produce is donated to local food pantries, food banks and other food distribution sites with accompanying nutrition education materials. 

“This program is successful locally because of the great rapport Polk County Master Gardeners have developed with local food pantries over the years,” said Stephanie Harrington, natural resources program coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County. “Our Master Gardener volunteers build relationships with visitors, as well, sharing with them how the produce grown at the donation gardens goes to local families in need.”

In addition to donating several thousand pounds of fresh produce, the Growing Together Iowa mini-also allowed opportunities for pantry patrons and public alike to learn more about how to grow produce, the importance of including fresh foods and vegetables in their diet, and how to maximize and preserve produce to last. To learn more about the Growing Together Iowa program visit www.extension.iastate.edu/mastergardener/growing-together-iowa and to learn more about Polk County Master Gardeners visit www.polkcountymastergardeners.org.

About the Polk County Master Gardeners
Polk County Master Gardeners is a volunteer service organization where advanced horticulture education and training is provided in exchange for volunteer service within the community. In 2022, 346 active Master Gardener volunteers served the community by:

  • Donating over 5,500 pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries.
  • Providing community spaces for education and respite through three community gardens. 
    • Demonstration Garden, Urbandale
    • Discovery Garden, Iowa State Fairgrounds 
    • Enabling Garden, Altoona 
  • Serving over 12,000 service hours!  

For more information about the Master Gardener program or other agriculture and natural resources programming reach out to Harrington at sharring@iastate.edu or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/agriculture-environment.

About ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County 
For over 100 years, ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County has served its residents by connecting them to research and resources developed by Iowa State University. Knowledge and programs offered through the ISU Extension Polk County office have been specifically tailored to represent, enhance, and meet the needs of Polk County residents and community. For 2022 ISU Extension in Polk County will focus on local issues including: K-12 youth outreach; family and food; and agriculture and the environment. ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County is a part of a 99-county campus backed by research to serve all Iowans to create a strong Iowa.


2023 Growing Together Iowa Stats: 5,677 pounds of food donated; 31 Master Gardener volunteers involved; Four food pantry gardens; and six donation sites