The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) is working to help food-growing programs at public gardens affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The USBG has partnered with the American Public Gardens Association to establish the Urban Agriculture Resilience Program to grow capacity, prevent shortfalls, and gather best practices from the U.S. public garden community.
"Especially now, during this unprecedented health and economic crisis, communities need access to healthy, fresh foods," said Saharah Moon Chapotin, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden. "We are proud to be able to support our fellow public gardens in their vital work of helping local communities grow and gain access to more fruits and vegetables and achieve better nutrition."
Created in June 2020, the partnership has awarded $378,000 to 28 public gardens in 19 states and Washington, D.C. to ensure they are able to continue growing and distributing produce to communities with food access challenges, offering urban agriculture and other food growing education programs, and promoting wellness and nutrition. Still in its early stages, the program has already begun to have a positive impact. Grumblethorpe House & Gardens in Pennsylvania is using their award to keep their Youth Farmstand running, offering produce grown on-site on a sliding scale, pay-what-you-can basis. The Youth Farmstand employs local teens over the summer as a first summer job.
Since Brooklyn Botanic Garden is still closed to the public and cannot hold on-site classes this summer, they are using the funding to serve members of their local community in need. They have transformed their Children's Garden into a production farm growing vegetables that are shared with the public through food distribution centers across Brooklyn.
With the program's support, similar food production and distribution efforts are continuing at Denver Botanic Gardens, Tower Hill Botanic Garden and many others. The University of Tennessee Gardens is using the funding to hire additional capacity for their program. Their new employee will work in their Helping Hands Kitchen Garden to expand food production and contribute to community education programs.
Beyond providing immediate support, the Urban Agriculture Resilience Program will gather insights on successful approaches and future opportunities for public gardens to improve food access and advance food and agriculture education. Best practices learned through this program will be shared with the public garden community to have an even longer-lasting impact across the country.
See the list of 28 garden awardees, photos and more at www.USBG.gov/UrbanAgResilience.