In the midst of record setting food pantry usage throughout the state, Growing Together Mini-Grants will provide fresh produce and nutrition education to pantries in 2023 through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s SNAP-Education program.A total of 30 projects are being funded, with the goal of increasing food security and promoting healthy food access and nutrition education.
In Winneshiek County, the Decorah Community Food Pantry will partner with the mini-grant program Master Gardeners to donate produce as well as offer educational opportunities for pantry clients. Volunteers at the new donation garden on the ISU Extension and Outreach Winneshiek County office campus will plant, maintain and harvest vegetable donations.
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 with accompanying nutrition education materials.
In nearby Fayette County, the mini-grant program will be initiated to incrase production of the West Union donation garden and create a new donation garden in Oelwein. Produce will be donated to loal food pantries, including the Open Hands Food Pantry and the Plentiful Pantry.
Growing Together mini-grants have been funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Education since 2016.
This year, additional funding for Growing Together Iowa was provided by Amerigroup. Iowa was the first state to create the Growing Together model, which has been replicated in Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming and Montana. Over the past seven years, the mini-grants have resulted in fruit and vegetable donations of almost 650,000 pounds in Iowa.
“This project mobilizes communities to help people experiencing food insecurity in a very tangible way,” said Katie Sorrell, extension education specialist and project coordinator for Growing Together. “Growing Together helps food pantries expand their offerings to include garden fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“It is exciting to see this program expanding into new areas of the state and increasing its impact,” said Alicia Herzog, Master Gardener program coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “We know how taxed local food pantries are and the Master Gardener program is honored to play a role in helping our neighbors secure fresh produce.”