How to make fresh produce available to everyone in your community

Get info on the Aetna Foundation's grants for community gardens, urban farms, and farmer's markets

I live in a small, suburban town that is thought of as a generally well-off area. But what many people do not know is that we have a food pantry that serves a surprising chunk of our population. The clients of the pantry include moms and kids in temporary housing, elderly people, and families who are financially struggling for a range of reasons.

The pantry gives out a huge range of items: canned food, fresh bread and meats, frozen foods, toiletries, and more. And in the summer, thanks in large part to our town’s community garden, the pantry gives out fresh produce to many people who couldn’t afford or access it otherwise.

My town has a lot of land—until relatively recently in its history, it was more rural than suburban—so it was probably not too difficult to create a community garden that helps benefit our food pantry. But even in cities where land seems scarce, community gardens are more than possible, and desperately needed to help supply fresh produce to local residents.

Think about it: How would you get fresh produce if you lived more than a mile from a grocery store? More than 23 million Americans are in this situation. What if your kids’ only source of produce was their school lunches—what happens in the summer when school’s out? This is a real concern for the 15.8 million children who live in food-insecure households.

Community gardens are a great solution to these problems. They supply healthy food in areas where it can be hard to come by, help educate people about healthy eating, and bring people together. That’s why the Aetna Foundation’s Local Roots program is giving out $1 million in $25,000–$50,000 grants to organizations that want to create or expand community gardens, urban farms, and/or farmer’s markets in underserved communities.

If you’re a part of a 501(c)(3) group—a school, church, state/local government agency, a public university, or community organization—you’re eligible!

Does this idea sound a little intimidating? Need some inspiration about what you could do? Check out these five examples of successful urban agriculture or these three other examples. And check out these past Aetna Foundation grant recipients (a bunch are focused on urban agriculture). Regular people around the world are transforming vacant lots, rooftops, and abandoned areas into thriving gardens, and with the Aetna Foundation’s help, you can, too.

The Aetna Foundation is awarding grants for community gardens, urban farms, and farmer's markets!Program details

1. All proposed programs must include one of the following:

– Nutrition education or cooking classes focused on the health benefits of fresh produce

– Growth or distribution of produce that reflects the food traditions of the target area

– Opportunities to learn job skills or entrepreneurship within the context of gardens, farms or farmers markets

– Opportunities for community service or volunteer work with the project

2. You must be an organization with 501(c)(3) status to apply, or a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor can apply on your behalf (get the nitty-gritty details here).

3. Proposal deadline: May 6, 2015 at 5 p.m. ET.

Make fresh fruits and vegetables locally available, accessible, and affordable to your community with the Aetna Foundation’s help! Visit the Aetna Foundation to learn how you can get involved, and join the conversation on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #GoLocalGrants.

I’ve partnered with the Aetna Foundation and The Motherhood on this sponsored post, but as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. See my disclosure policy here.

[Tweet “Schools and nonprofits: #Grants for community urban gardens and farmer’s markets! #golocalgrants”]

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