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Master Gardener and Other Extension Efforts Boost Food Security

Nifa Authors
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

Millions of Americans face food insecurity. While the overall food insecurity in the country stands at about 10.5 percent, households with children have a substantially higher rate of food insecurity—almost 15 percent—than those without children. 

Across the United States, Extension Master Gardener (EMG) programs and other Extension efforts work to reduce food insecurity in their communities. Katie Dunker, state Master Gardener coordinator for Colorado State University Extension said that food insecurity and access to fresh produce is a concern among Colorado Masters Gardeners.

“I think nationally, EMGs are concerned about people in their communities facing food insecurity,” she said.  “Look at what we as EMGs can do.  Not only can we teach people to raise their own fruits and vegetables, but we can donate the fruits of our labors to our neighbors as well as local food pantries and food banks. It’s more than food—it’s a gift of love.”

Across the country, Extension programs are promoting growing food for others not only through Master Gardener programs, but other programs as well.

Feeding the Community

  • Growing Together, a multi-state Extension effort including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, works to increase fresh fruit and vegetable availability to food pantries and other agencies serving SNAP-eligible clients. Together, the project donated more than 140,000 pounds of produce to about 250 food pantries and distribution sites that serve almost 100,000 people.  
  • Grow & Give, a modern victory garden project, addresses food insecurity in Colorado by connecting backyard and community gardeners to food donation sites. Colorado State University Extension helps people share part of their garden bounty to those in need. In 2021, more than 55,000 pounds of produce was donated by 700 gardeners.
  • Oregon Master Gardeners harvested and donated more than 25 tons of produce to state food banks, including a group of volunteers who grew culturally appropriate vegetables to benefit their local Latinx population.
  • In Connecticut, Master Gardeners and other volunteers raise more than 4,000 pounds annually in a single community garden. Thanks to a recent gift, the group hopes to expand their production capability.
  • Growing Together Iowa promotes healthy food access for families with low income through a partnership between Iowa State University Extension, volunteers and food pantries and distribution sites. In 2021, the program donated 91,000 pounds of produce, benefiting more than 65,000 people.
  • In Alabama, the Grow More, Give More project More grew and donated more than 18 tons of fresh produce, offering many communities a new source of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Master Gardeners in North Dakota provided free vegetable seeds to home gardeners with the stipulation that produce grown be donated to food pantries and organized nine weekly collection sites to receive surplus homegrown vegetables and fruits from the public for delivery to food pantries.  In 2020, Extension Master Gardeners produced, gleaned and collected more than 38,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for local food pantries.


Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products
U.S. States and Territories
North Dakota

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