In an effort to increase access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods throughout Merced County, the Merced County Department of Public Health CalFresh Champions for Change Program is looking to award mini-grants to either start a community garden or improve an existing community garden.
“We had some extra money available from our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) funding and we wanted to get the money out into the community so that they could have more fruits and vegetables,” said Supervising Health Educator Stephanie Russell.
“Gardens also really bring people together,” added Russell.
Mini-grants available in amounts between $2,000 and $9,900 will be awarded to Merced County nonprofit groups, churches, public housing sites, schools or community based organizations. To qualify for mini-grants, the applicant must demonstrate that the garden would serve low-income residents.
Additionally, priority will be given to gardens in communities that were not previously funded by this program, which was formerly known as SNAP-Ed.
Agencies that receive a mini-grant are able to use the funds on a number of allowable expenses, including small gardening tools and supplies, educational supplies and staff salaries.
Unallowable expenses for mini-grants include purchases such as the cost of land or rental of land, the cost of water and trees, among others.
Last year, Russell reported that the program was able to award community garden mini-grants to six agencies, including Lifeline Community Center, Gustine School District and Head Start.
“Some were existing gardens that got upgrades, such as revitalization with drip irrigation, and a couple gardens were literally started in empty lots,” said Russell.
With a mini-grant, the Lifeline Community Center was able to create a community garden in an area that was donated by a neighboring liquor store. Russell reported that people from the community designed the garden's raised beds and local Girl Scouts came to decorate signs.
“If you drive past that lot today, there are vegetables growing in what used to just be an empty lot,” said Russell. “Next, they are planning to add trees and cacti.”
Applications for new sites will be accepted until July 7. Applicants are required to include information on the agency, budget and description of the project. For more information, call 381-1161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.