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Gardening Grant Program Awards Funding to Seven Organizations to Increase Resident and Community Food Production and Access in Montgomery County

Montgomery County has announced that its Fiscal Year 2024 Resident and Community Food Gardening Grant Program recently awarded $200,000 to seven community-based organizations. These grants support initiatives aimed at expanding local food production, and access to gardening and small-scale farming and over 1,800 residents are expected to participate in these funded programs.

Per the news release: “The funding went to the following organizations, who explained how they will use their grant

  • AfriThrive:  Expand the “Boosting Our Culturally Appropriate Foods” program to a new location at Kemp Mill Elementary School. This expansion will diversify crop selection, availability, increase educational and technical assistance opportunities for participants.
  • Community Food Forest Collective: Increase the square footage of land under production within the network of Food Forests in Montgomery County, including on the Montgomery College Takoma Park campus and at Takoma Park Elementary School. Partnerships will be strengthened with community-based organizations to connect this food with residents.
  • Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER): Expanded the Neighborhood Gardening Program to reach three additional locations and engage new members of the Long Branch Gardeners Group.
  • Islamic Center of Maryland (ICM): Expand production of culturally relevant herbs, fruits and vegetables in the center’s Community Garden, while engaging the center’s Children’s Program for educational opportunities. Will contribute harvested produce to the ICMCares Social Service Food Pantry Program.
  • Shepherd’s Table: Electrify the greenhouse behind Progress Place in Silver Spring to grow crops year-round for the more than 180,000 meals served annually at Shepherd’s Table.
  • The Charles Koiner Center for Urban Farming, Inc.: Expand the community-based education farm at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School to support food access amongst families in Wheaton.
  • The People’s Community Baptist Church: Expand the garden to engage more youth members of the predominantly Black church community with an opportunity to grow and harvest organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.

 

These funded projects will promote food sovereignty, nutrition security and climate change mitigation as residents experience new ways to build community and support a more sustainable, hyper-local food system through growing and harvesting their own food. Residents participating in the proposed projects —including students, seniors, adults with disabilities and children, many of whom may be experiencing food insecurity—will have the opportunity to grow culturally relevant foods, such as curry leaves, cilantro, figs and peppers that meet their unique needs. The awarded projects support partnerships with faith-based organizations, educational institutions and housing initiatives representing the diverse and multidimensional impact of this investment.

“Our commitment to local food production and access is about more than just growing food,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “It’s about building resilient communities, improving public health and fostering a deeper connection to our environment. These grants support thousands of residents who have experienced high barriers to accessing nutritious, culturally relevant food. By supporting these innovative projects, we are empowering residents to take control of their food sources and contribute to a sustainable future for Montgomery County.”

Grant applications were evaluated by a panel of five subject matter experts, coordinated by the Office of Food Systems Resilience. Awards were determined based on applicants’ demonstrated ability to provide resident access to community gardening supplies and spaces, promote equitable food production and food education opportunities and increase the supply of culturally appropriate foods within the local food system.

The grant program is supported by Special Appropriation #24-37, which was unanimously passed by the County Council at the request of the County Executive in December 2023 to allocate more than $11 million to new and expanded programs that align with the recommendations of the Strategic Plan to End Childhood Hunger. Increasing localized food production through these grants will address childhood hunger by enhancing the accessibility of preferred foods and facilitating educational opportunities related to food production and nutrition for youth.

“The Gardening Grant Program first launched as a component of the County’s COVID-19 pandemic response and has since expanded tremendously to engage an increasingly diverse network of residents and community organizations,” said Heather Bruskin, director of the Montgomery County Office of Food Systems Resilience. “These efforts not only increase access to nutritious foods; they also directly benefit the long-term health of our community and natural resources.”

To learn more about this grant program and other opportunities for engagement in local food gardening efforts, visit montgomerycountymd.gov/OFSR.”

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