Building a Community of Community Gardeners

The Community Health Council of Rutherford County is promoting healthy eating across Rutherford County through a competition for grant funding to start community gardens. The Council’s hope is to help one organization in each of the county’s rural communities to begin a garden where neighbors will work together to build the garden and share the local produce.

The grant application can be found in the NEWS section on the Council’s website, The grant deadline is 5:00 on May 1, 2018. Winners will be notified by May 10. Awards will be made to non-profit organizations, clubs, or churches. Each group will be expected to commit at least three years to the project.

The Healthy Eating committee of the Health Council is made up of representatives from several agencies in the county who have an interest in food and nutrition for individuals, families, and children in the county. This committee will review applications and choose up to 5 winners representing different areas across the county. Each winner will be awarded up to $1,500 for supplies, plants, seeds, or tools needed to start the garden. After year one, future funding may be available after the gardeners evaluate their project early in 2020. Normal progress reports will be required by the grantees.

Training will be provided to the leaders and participants in the gardening project, including instructions on starting a spring and fall garden, preventing pests, using the produce once it is grown, and preparing the garden for winter. The awardees will gather at least three times over the year to talk about best practices and discuss the progress of their projects.

Daily consumption of fresh food is one of the indicators in county health rankings. In a recent local Community Health Assessment, less than 7% of respondents reported that they consume the recommended daily servings of fresh foods. Rutherford County was recently named as number 74 of 100 NC counties in overall health.

According to Jill Miracle, the Executive Director of the Community Health Council, “Access to healthy, local produce is restricted in Rutherford County. Many of the county’s rural communities are cited as food deserts, meaning that affordable, healthy food is limited or non-existent because grocery stores are too far away. More than 29% of residents in our county live more than 10 miles away from a full-service grocery store. We recognize that unhealthy eating leads to many of the factors in the recent report, including cancer and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.”

“The Health Council’s desire is to build a community of community gardeners. The Healthy Eating committee of the Health Council developed the grant process as one way to lay the groundwork for a county that is intentional about increasing the number of servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets. Providing grant funding for communities to experiment with growing and preparing different kinds of foods is one strategy toward improving healthy eating.”

For more information on the grant opportunity, please call 828-202-4630.

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