The rising interest in eating locally grown food throughout the state has sparked the Missouri Department of Agriculture to begin a local food grants program. In its first year, the program has awarded a grant to the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture.
The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture will begin installing 10 new gardens for low-income and disadvantaged families throughout the city this spring, as part of a grant of nearly $5,000 from the MDA. Missouri Director of Agriculture John Hagler hopes the gardens will encourage lower-income families to eat healthier.
“It’s an opportunity for them to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables often times that they may not have access either through their local grocery stores or because of price affordability,” Hagler said.
The grant is designed to support the development of the Opportunity Garden Program, which was established in 2010 to help low-income families grow their own food at home. Dan Soetaert coordinates the program. He says the success rate of families that have maintained a garden since the program started is close to 90 percent.
“Last year we put in 20 opportunity gardens with different grant money and I’ve gone back to see many of the garden s through the years, and people had you know lots of produce growing--talking about how they ate it with their family, and we’re sharing it with people and there was only a couple people who nothing really happened in their garden, so we’re pretty happy with that success rate,” Soetaert said.
The program is first come, first served, and participating families will receive gardening equipment and training. Installation of all 10 gardens is expected to be completed by early summer.