Growing Together Iowa receives $85K for statewide community garden project

Iowa State University Extension
A garden tour at DMACC Newton Campus was among the events Aug. 26 when Iowa State University Extension and Outreach received $85,000 from Amerigroup Iowa for Growing Together Iowa.

AMES, Iowa — Growing Together Iowa, a donation gardening and nutrition education project from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has received $85,000 from Amerigroup, a leading managed care company.

The gift is supporting a statewide community garden initiative that will provide nearly 110,000 pounds of fresh produce to area food pantries.

Growing Together Iowa combines extension expertise in horticulture, food safety and nutrition education with a network of extension Master Gardener volunteers to develop community donation gardens throughout the state. Fresh fruits and vegetables are grown, harvested and donated to local food pantries.

“The goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for Iowans,” said Katie Sorrell, policy, systems and environmental change coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach. “This generous gift from Amerigroup will fund the 2021 Growing Together Iowa donation gardening mini-grants for 32 community projects.”

These funds will help meet a critical need, as one in eight Iowans lacks reliable access to healthy food according to data available at “Close to Home,” a social driver of health information tool available through Anthem Inc., the parent company of Amerigroup Iowa.

“As part of Amerigroup’s longstanding commitment to improving the health of our communities, we are addressing how interconnected factors, like food, shape health,” said Jeffrey Jones, plan president, Amerigroup Iowa. “This support will help Growing Together Iowa feed thousands of additional families across the state and help fight food insecurity by expanding access to nutritious foods. To show support and dedication to our community, Amerigroup associates will donate their time at community gardens across the state as we work collaboratively with our local partners to better serve our members in new ways.”  

“Amerigroup will be engaged as a partner in Growing Together Iowa throughout the rest of the summer,” said Christine Hradek, who coordinates USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) for ISU Extension and Outreach. “Amerigroup staff can participate in volunteer opportunities in gardens near their homes, and we will provide lunch-and-learn educational sessions for approximately 500 Amerigroup Iowa staff. We will explore the prevalence and impact of nutrition insecurity on Iowans and help the Amerigroup staff build their collection of resources and strategies to effectively support their members who may struggle with food concerns.”

In 2020, Growing Together Iowa volunteers harvested and donated more than 81,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to Iowa food pantries. Their efforts helped these organizations provide more than 243,000 servings of fresh produce for Iowans who were struggling financially.

69,386 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was available.

239 Master Gardener volunteers and 430 additional community volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa during the growing season.

1,016 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa.

Since 2016 when the Growing Together Iowa project began, 434,729 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to Iowa food pantries.

Growing Together Iowa is a SNAP-Education project funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and ISU Extension and Outreach. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. The program helps people buy nutritious foods for a better diet.

Amerigroup is deeply focused on addressing food security and inconsistent and insufficient access to nutritious food, along with other critical factors that influence the whole health of individuals, families and communities. Since 2019, Amerigroup and its foundation in Iowa have donated over $600,000 to 12 local organizations and partners as a leading champion for direct community action and food relief initiatives.

Amerigroup’s funding contribution is through the Iowa State University Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State University.