Just last night my kids and I finished prepping our backyard garden plot and we are ready today to get a few things in the ground. Spring is finally happening! I can't say we are very good at gardening yet, even though we've been at it for a few years now, but I have a great appreciation for the benefits of gardens and locally grown food so every year we try once again to grow some of our own food.
One thing that I certainly appreciate about our garden is how much I am able to involve the kids and how much they enjoy it! Turns out the rumors are true - if you get your kids involved in growing the vegetables, they are much more likely to eat the vegetables. One very prolific zucchini plant two summers ago turned three zucchini haters into squash eaters and made a believer out of me!
Your zip code is a greater indicator of your health and longevity than your genetic code (CDC)
Because of our excitement about our own garden, my interest was immediately piqued when I heard about the Aetna Foundation and their Local Roots Grant Program. The Aetna Foundation recognizes that there is a great need to increase access to healthy foods for at-risk communities and they have created a way to improve the situation for vulnerable communities with Community Gardens, Urban Farms, and Farmers Markets. It's an innovative and creative way to meet needs in at-risk communities, one that has really excited me and my kids!
49 million Americans, including 15.8 million children live in food insecure households (Feeding America)
(Image via Rio Grande Community Farm)
We are excited about the Local Roots Grant Program because it really does make a difference! I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Garth Graham, President of the Aetna Foundation, to learn more about the program and how communities and individuals can get involved. My favorite part of the meeting was hearing the garden success stories. There was a man from Brooklyn who noticed that the only thing on every corner of his block was a liquor store or fast food restaurant. So he started a rooftop garden. He would then go out on the streets and sell the produce. His garden added value to that community and the community in turn flocked to him to purchase his produce.
Planting a Community Garden is simply supplying a need to the food deserts in your city. Garth Graham
The Local Roots Grant Program is available to help communities create and expand Community Gardens, Urban Farms, and Farmer's Markets. The programs they are looking to fund 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
If you have a garden, farm, or market that meets one of these criteria, or you'd like to start one the Local Roots Grant Program can help!
Apply for the Local Roots RFP
- All non-profit and community organizations with 501 (c)(3) status, and state and local government agencies are eligible to apply
- Proposal deadline: May 6, 2015 at 5 p.m. ET
- Learn more at www.aetnafoundation.org
Tips for Starting Your Own Urban Garden
- Get your children involved – bring your kids with you to help pick out seeds and let them help you take care of them
- Start small – you can still have a garden even if you don’t have a yard using hanging baskets and potted plants
- Pick “Easy Growers” – start with fresh herbs and vegetables that are easy to grow like basil, cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans
Another option is finding a Community Garden near you. Here in Albuquerque, we have the incredible Rio Grande Community Farm with opportunities to volunteer, donate, and even purchase your own garden row to work for only $50!
Tips for Getting Involved in a Community Garden Near You
- Find a garden in your neighborhood – use resources such as the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) to find a community garden near you
- Share your knowledge – use your gardening skills to help your community by volunteering. Use your local parks department and the ACGA to find opportunities
- Check out your local farmer’s market – the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory can help find fresh local produce for yourself and your family
- Go Local! – if these resources aren’t available in your community, encourage local non-profits and state and local government agencies to apply for the Local Roots RFP
- Visit AetnaFoundation.org to learn more about our GoLocal: Cultivating Healthy Communities Grants and how you can get involved
- Check out our infographic to learn more about the need to better access to nutrition in underserved communities
- Join the conversation at #GoLocalGrants
I partnered with The Motherhood and The Aetna Foundation to bring you this post. All opinions are entirely my own.