Nature’s Path Organic Foods has named the winners of its fifth annual Gardens for Good Grant, which helps put organic community gardens where they will serve those who need them most. The three deserving non-profit organizations to receive grants are Franklinton Garden in Columbus, Ohio, Mercy Gardens in Decateur, Illinois, and Growing Chefs, Vancouver, British Columbia.
“It is a true privilege to support these incredible organizations that are making significant changes in their local communities and who share our vision to provide organic food for those who might not have access to it,” said Arran Stephens, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Nature’s Path. “We are honored to have them as partners on the path towards leaving the earth better than we found it.”
Out of the 136 entries from non-profit organizations making an impact at the local level, the three winners rose to the top. They were among nine other finalists who earned the most public support by way of online votes, and were ultimately selected based on the compelling, empowering and inspirational nature in which they described their organic garden project; the feasibility to establish and maintain the garden; and demonstrated community need. The organizations will each receive a $15,000 cash grant for their community garden project, and technical design and production mentorship provided by Organic Gardening magazine.
About the Winners
Franklinton Gardens is a nonprofit urban farming and healthy food advocacy initiative in Columbus, Ohio that strives to build a critical consciousness about the potential of urban agriculture to positively transform the urban landscape. Franklinton Gardens maintains a 2-acre urban farm comprised of seven different gardens distributed throughout the neighborhood. Produce from the gardens is donated to food pantries, community meals, and after-school children’s programs and is sold at three EBT-friendly markets that the organization helped establish in the neighborhood. Franklinton Gardens has a number of additional food-based projects in the works, including the development of a community composting campaign, the remodeling of a neighborhood church’s kitchen to host food processing workshops, and the development of a neighborhood edible perennial orchard-nursery. Franklinton Gardens will use the Gardens for Good Grant to remodel a vacant building to be used as a creative workspace that will provide long-term support for urban agriculture in Central Ohio.
Mercy Gardens is a project collaboration between two non-profits in Decatur, Illinois, that will bring healthy, organic food to approximately 300 food insecure men, women, and children daily, as well as train low-income citizens to become organic gardeners. The idea was born between Decatur Is Growing Gardeners (DIGG), an urban farming initiative whose purpose is to create entrepreneurial opportunities for low-income residents through growing vegetables and fruits sustainably, and The Good Samaritan Inn, whose mission is to maintain a community program to serve nutritious meals to the hungry and economically disadvantaged. With the Gardens for Good Grant, they plan to turn empty lots into organic urban gardens. One area will be used to create an interpretive garden utilizing recycled materials and alternative methods such as living fences and vertical gardens to serve as a showcase to the community and a potential place for agritourism activities. The other area will be used to create a garden more intensely focused on production. Both will be incorporated into a job skills training program teaching low-income people agricultural, construction, and interpretive skills. The Inn is also committed to using the produce from the garden to serve in its kitchen, which will result in around 103,000 meals served with organic, local produce annually.
The Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening Program inspires kids with a love for growing and eating healthy food through direct experience – getting their hands in the dirt, caring for growing plants, and harvesting and cooking their own vegetables. A volunteer chef partners with the students to plant organic, indoor windowsill gardens consisting of fast-growing vegetables, such as beans, peas, lettuce, and arugula. The chefs return to the classroom every two weeks for 3.5 months to help the students care for their organic windowsill gardens and lead lessons on healthy eating, gardening and plant growth, local and urban agriculture, and healthy food systems. At the end of the program, the chefs help the students harvest their vegetables and teach them to cook delicious meals with the food they grew. Students learn nutritional information and gardening and cooking skills to take home and share with their families and communities. The Gardens for Good grant will help bring the program to 46 classrooms, eight communities, and more than 1300 children.