In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased 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 36 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 six years, the mini-grants have resulted in food donations of over 532,000 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 and home gardeners. All produce is donated to local food pantries, food banks and other food distribution sites.
“We are excited to expand the project to new counties while supporting established community donation gardens throughout Iowa,” said Katie Sorrell, extension education specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “This project provides fresh fruits and vegetables, often harvested that day, to food pantry clients throughout rural and urban Iowa counties.”
The projects took on renewed importance in 2021, with increased food insecurity and economic challenges across Iowa.
“Master Gardeners take great pride in their Growing Together projects,” said Alicia Herzog, Master Gardener program coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “It’s encouraging to see growth, both in the garden and in the number of counties participating, because we know how impactful these contributions will be to local communities in need.”
This year, the Growing Together Iowa team received a record number of applications, including five new counties that have never received the mini-grant before.
For more information, Katie Sorrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Local County projects
Cerro Gordo – Increase production with high yielding and easy-to-grow crops at donation gardens in Mason City and Clear Lake. Food pantry clients will be invited to helping hours at the garden and nutrition education classes taught by a food and health specialist.
Floyd – Support families with low-income in maintaining community garden plots through hands-on support and nutrition education opportunities. The project will also coordinate donations from home gardeners and high school agriculture students.
Franklin – Create a donation garden in Ackley and convert a garden space to a donation garden in Hampton. Garden volunteers will plant high yielding and culturally diverse produce to donate to the Franklin County Community Food Pantry.
Wright – Maximize two garden plots at the Clarion community garden to benefit First Lutheran Church Food Pantry and create a new donation garden in Rowan. Food pantry clients will be encouraged to participate in 15 educational workshops and demonstrations, including container gardening and nutrition education.