USDA Awards Grants to Launch Community Gardens Across the Nation
November 11, 2011 | Jessica Vernabe
The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded 10 grants to help underserved communities across the country in order to start “People’s Gardens,” addressing problems such as malnutrition, food insecurity and other health issues.
The grants, totaling $725,000, will support 155 People’s Gardens, or sustainable community gardens that give residents direct access to fresh fruits and vegetables, according to a USDA press release. They are the first grants awarded under the People’s Garden Grant Program. The USDA received more than 360 proposals requesting more than $4 million.
The program focuses on urban and rural areas that are considered food deserts, or “food insecure areas.” It particularly focuses on communities with persistent poverty. Other goals of the program include supporting local and regional food systems, as well as educating people through education programs about malnutrition-related issues—such as food insecurity, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
“The People’s Garden Initiative has demonstrated that one direct and effective way of improving food access is to plant a garden,” U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said today when announcing the grant awards in Baltimore. “Since establishing our People’s Garden Initiative, we’re excited to see more and more people working together to create nurturing communities around these sources of nutritious food.”
The USDA listed the grant recipients and their grant amounts as follows:
- Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, Alaska, $110,500
- Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona, Arizona, $5,000
- Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, California, $29,000
- Denver Urban Gardens, Colorado, $70,000
- Knox Parks, Inc., Connecticut, $50,000
- Heritage Ranch, Inc., Hawaii, $110,500
- Alliance for Community Trees, Inc., Maryland, $150,000
- Towson University, Maryland, $60,000
- Calhoun Conservation District, Michigan, $70,000
- Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Ohio, $70,000
The grant program is managed by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It also receives funding from the Agriculture Marketing Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
There are more than 1,400 People’s Gardens, which are located across the United States, in three U.S. territories and in nine foreign countries. The department said it is working with “more than 600 local organizations to create school gardens, community gardens and small-scale agriculture projects in urban and rural areas.” All People’s Garden produce grown on USDA-owned property or on leased property is donated to help those in need. So far, the program has given more than 1 million pounds of produce to food banks, food kitchens and other charitable organizations. Other program partners are encouraged to share their harvests, as well.