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University of Wisconsin-Madison

Eddie G. Gouge
Executive Director
Board on Human Sciences
(202) 478-6028

Florencia Drumwright
Senior Associate
Board on Human Sciences
(202) 478-6093

Growing Together Iowa at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach


Access to healthy food is a wicked problem. One in eight Iowans is food insecure and in some counties, the number is closer to one in five. People who visit food pantries want fresh fruits and vegetables, which make up a healthy diet. In 2015, state coordinators of the SNAP-Ed and Master Gardener programs launched the Growing Together Iowa project. The project aims to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are foundational to healthy eating, and often not available at food pantries. The target audience includes people in Iowa who visit food pantries, meal sites, and food banks.

The interdisciplinary team implements a strategic approach to increase access to healthy food in food pantries. Strategies include:

  • SNAP-Ed funded mini grants to Master Gardener-led teams across the state who commit to collaborate with food pantries and increase healthy food access through donation gardens or food rescue initiatives.
  • Training and resources for Master Gardeners and their community partners including food safety for donation gardens and tips for maximizing fruits and vegetable production.
  • Nutrition education resources offered to all participating food pantries.
  • Online resources on cleaning, storing and using fresh produce on Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s website and app called Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

The Growing Together Iowa collaboration has been in place for over 3 years and the team has seen strong outcomes.

During the 2018 growing season:

  • Growing Together Iowa team members donated 90,000 pounds of produce to partner pantries and meal sites
  • Donations reached 95,721 Iowans through 101 food pantries.
  • Master Gardeners leveraged their mini grants to leverage $34,775 in matched funds or in-kind contributions from local sources.

This project has affected not only our target audience of people experiencing food insecurity; it has also changed our Master Gardener volunteers.

  • 339 Master Gardener volunteers participated in the project volunteering over 6,780 hours and building partnerships in the community with 438 people.

In 2018, the Growing Together team spoke with Master Gardeners and other volunteers from counties participating in the project. Seventy-five percent of volunteers noted a change in their perception of food insecurity since taking part in this project. Most often, volunteers expressed a newfound understanding of the scope of food insecurity within their own communities. Volunteers often noted their changing perceptions of food insecurity happened when they went to the donation site(s) to drop off the produce they grew or rescued.

Five states are currently replicating components of Growing Together Iowa. They include Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. The Iowa interdisciplinary team is proud to support our partner states through regular calls and two face-to-face meetings. Our national collaboration has focused on sharing success stories and tools, and creating shared evaluation metrics to measure change. In 2017 and 2018, the multi-state team prepared a project impact report including six metrics shared across all states.

The Growing Together Iowa team includes:

  • State SNAP-Ed Coordinator
  • State Master Gardener Coordinator
  • Representative from the ISU Local Foods Team
  • Faculty from Horticulture and Food Sciences and Human Nutrition
  • Graduate students

Meetings & Events Events

All Day
This meeting will be virtual.
All Day
Hilton Concord Hotel, 1970 Diamond Boulevard, Concord, CA 94520

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