Two Columbia groups receive grants to promote locally grown produce

Friday, February 17, 2012 | 6:02 p.m. CST; updated 8:46 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 21, 2012

COLUMBIA — Two groups are getting help to promote locally grown produce with grant money awarded by Missouri Director of Agriculture Jon Hagler.

Columbia-based Sustainable Farms and Communities Inc.received a $5,000 grant, and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture received a $4,910 grant. Both were awarded Thursday.

Columbia's Sustainable Farms and Communities, which works to promote sustainable food systems in mid-Missouri, will print promotional brochures and flyers and provide incentives to buy produce using the grant money. It will also offer cooking classes to people in the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Access to Healthy Foods program with the money.

About 200 households are expected to benefit from this project. Those households are in areas known as “food deserts” — so-called since they are far from grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other fresh, healthy food.

The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture will use the grant money to develop the Opportunity Garden Program, which helps low-income and disadvantaged people grow food from their homes. The grant will support the installation of 10 new gardens early this spring, which will be ready to use by early summer. Since its establishment in 2010, the Opportunity Garden Program has installed 20 gardens.

“We come to help them on a somewhat regular basis to help people get over the initial learning curve of gardening,” said Daniel Soetaert, the Opportunity Garden Program coordinator. “We are very grateful that this grant comes from the Department of Agriculture in Missouri.”

The Local Foods Grants, supported by Missouri's Agriculture Protection Fund, allow people to connect with necessary resources in their communities to make a difference, Hagler said in a news release.

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