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Grow Food, Grow Hope Initiative Wins $20,000 Grant

Community Gardens to Expand at Least Two-Fold in 2009

November 24, 2009

(TOP) Grow Food, Grow Hope's logo. (BOTTOM) VISTA worker Eric Guindon of Wilmington (foreground), along with other VISTAs and master gardeners assist families at the Community Gardens plots last summer.

(TOP) Grow Food, Grow Hope's logo. (BOTTOM) VISTA worker Eric Guindon of Wilmington (foreground), along with other VISTAs and master gardeners assist families at the Community Gardens plots last summer.

Tom’s of Maine rewarded Wilmington College’s Grow Food, Grow Hope initiative with a $20,000 grant that will provide for the doubling of a program that teaches vegetable gardening to persons adversely affected by the local economy.

Grow Food, Grow Hope was one of the top five vote-getters in Tom’s online competition among “inspiring and creative” non-profit entities whose charge is to make a lasting difference in their communities.

The company, which produces natural personal care products, said its “50 States for Good” promotion drew more than 280,000 online votes during the contest’s run through October.

The $20,000 prize will go a long way in supplementing the Grow Food, Grow Hope community outreach, which is staffed by WC’s AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteers. It will help fund its signature program, the 2010 Community Gardens project, which is on track to expand from 20 four-by-12 foot plots on College land to at least 40 next spring.

Grow Food, Grow Hope is under the auspices of the Center for Service and Civic Engagement at WC, which is directed by Tara Lydy.

She said the grant would enhance Grow Food, Grow Hope’s outreach to the community as it endeavors to increase Wilmington and Clinton County’s capacity for producing affordable, nutritious food for local consumption.

“Winning these funds will assist us in enhancing our anti-poverty focus through the Grow Food, Grow Hope initiative,” she said. “Our mission relies heavily on educating others, increasing families’ confidence in the ability to put food on their tables and, ultimately, empowering them to develop a sustainable solution — thus achieving lasting solutions to poverty.”

For the inaugural year of the Community Gardens project, the VISTA staff worked with Monte Anderson, professor of agriculture, and several master gardeners from the community in teaching small-plot vegetable gardening to select local families whose breadwinners were unemployed or underemployed.

The families learned the intricacies of successful vegetable gardening and harvested fresh vegetables for their dinner tables from June through October. On the heels of that experience, many are planning to plant their own home gardens in 2010.

“The Tom’s of Maine award enables us to build capacity and cultivate a deeper relationship with our community partners,” Lydy added. “It will truly help our outreach in Clinton County, and we’re excited to put it to use.”

The College was awarded through the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America program nine AmeriCorps*VISTA workers for 2009-10. WC received $149,000 in federal stimulus funds earmarked to cover the VISTAs’ basic living expenses. The Tom’s of Maine grant will be used exclusively for programming.

In 2009, the fledgling gardens project received a major boost when an anonymous donor gave $10,000 in start-up money. The College, along with other gifts, funded the balance of the programming expenses.

The Community Gardens project is but one component of the multi-faceted “Grow Food, Grow Hope.” The VISTA workers, some of whom are Wilmington College alumni, also are involved with such areas for increasing the community’s food capacity as youth outreach, a year-round farmers’ market, backyard gardening, the local food pantry and a growers co-op.