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USDA expands People’s Garden initiative

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Program aims to sow seeds for community-based agriculture across the country

| November 11, 2011

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited a community garden in Baltimore on Nov. 10 to announce 10 grants to support 155 People's Gardens in neighborhoods from Maryland to Hawaii, continuing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to combat malnutrition while supporting local and regional food systems.

These sustainable community gardens will give residents direct access to fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods. A lack of access to fresh and nutritious food fuels obesity and domestic food insecurity—a condition where households experience limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

"The simple act of planting a garden can help unite neighborhoods around a common effort and inspire communities to find solutions to challenges facing our country—from hunger to the environment," said Merrigan. "The People's Garden Initiative has demonstrated that one direct and effective way of improving food access is to plant a garden. 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."

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) manages the People's Garden Grant Program (PGGP), with 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. The grants announced today, totaling $725,000, are the first awards given under the PGGP. USDA received more than 360 proposals requesting more than $4 million.

PGGP was designed to invest in urban and rural areas identified as food deserts or food insecure areas, particularly those with persistent poverty. In addition, PGGP seeks to address health issues closely related to malnutrition, including food insecurity, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, through onsite education programs.

Projects were funded in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio. Grants were awarded to:

  • 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 People's Garden Initiative is a grassroots effort to grow healthy food, people and communities. There are more than 1,400 People's Gardens across the nation, three U.S. territories and nine foreign countries. USDA is working with over 600 local organizations to create school gardens, community gardens and small-scale agriculture projects in urban and rural areas, collectively referred to as community-based agriculture.

People's Gardens are located at faith-based centers, on federal leased or owned property, at schools and other places within communities. All produce grown at a People's Garden on USDA owned or leased property is donated to help those in need. To date, the People's Garden has donated over 1 million pounds of produce to local food banks, food kitchens and other charitable organizations through their 'Share Your Harvest' campaign, whereby USDA invites partners to share their harvests with neighborhood food pantries, kitchens and shelters, which helps improve access to healthy, affordable food at a local level.

Search the People's Gardens Interactive Map to find out where gardens are located. To learn more or to register your community garden as a People's Garden, visit www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.

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