Engaging community volunteers helps reduce food insecurity in Montana

Engaging community volunteers helps reduce food insecurity in Montana

In Montana, one in 10 individuals experience food insecurity and 92% of adults do not meet the vegetable intake recommendations. Growing Together Montana is a collaboration between the Montana State University Extension Nutrition Education Program and the Montana Master Gardener Program that addresses food insecurity.

Growing Together Montana provided mini-grants of up to $2,000 to Master Gardeners and communities to start, convert or maintain gardens for the purpose of donating fruits and vegetables to food pantries or other organizations. In coordination with garden projects, Extension provided nutrition education on how to prepare garden produce to individuals who have access to the donated produce. Over half of the six projects that received funding were located within or bordering an Indigenous community. In total, 8,200 individuals gained access to fresh garden produce through the 28 partner agencies that distributed produce donations

Fort Peck Indian Reservation received one of the grants to purchase seed, supplies and amendments and to test soil and water. The program taught participants about growing food and showed them how to eat healthier. The Fort Peck Tribes gave the program three acres of land to use, as well as a large storage building, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped install two high tunnels. The program with Fort Peck Tribes had 1,637 hours of volunteer labor ($41,300) and $55,000 of in-kind and donated equipment support. The result was 4,695 pounds of fresh food supporting hundreds of households and two new community gardens. Locally grown garden produce led to several food tasting events including a chili tasting, three using the garden produce, and a salsa tasting with produce in a kit to make their own salsa.

Another benefit demonstrated through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation’s experience are the partnerships built through this program. Partners include the Fort Peck Tribes Community Services Program, Natural Resources Department and Health Promotion Disease Prevention program; USDA-NRCS; and Extension SNAP-Ed, Master Gardener and other volunteers. These partnerships could serve as a foundation for future impactful programs.

Link to full statement on website: http://landgrantimpacts.tamu.edu/impacts/show/6050