The United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded Grace Grows a $35,000 planning grant as part of the 2020 Community Food Projects Program.
Grace Grows is a 501c3 non-profit that works closely with people who are experiencing homelessness, food insecurity and economic disparities, especially in East Gainesville, through educational and training programs, therapeutic gardening programs, and the development of solutions to systemic issues facing this population.
With the recent award of the USDA Community Food Project Planning Grant, Grace Grows, in partnership with Project Advisors and an Advisory Group from the affected community, will initiate a community-driven planning process that will guide Southeast Gainesville towards better food access and food sovereignty while simultaneously leveraging embedded agricultural and community assets.
“Southeast Gainesville has rich community assets: families, vibrant neighborhoods, innovative school programs, active faith communities, emerging agricultural enterprises, youth programs, food security efforts, and historic and current collaborations with both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College,” said Grace Grows’ Executive Director, Abigail Perret-Gentil. ” With a 20.4% food insecurity rate, however, Alachua is one of the top five most food-insecure counties in Florida, Grace Grows aims to generate solutions through this planning project and support collaboration, democratic decision-making and empowerment.” she said.
While many Alachua County residents are affected by food access, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, “this challenge is greatest in low-income neighborhoods of color.” According to the USDA Food Access Research Atlas, all of East Gainesville is located within low-income census tracts and has low food access. The most pronounced food access issues exist in Southeast Gainesville where most residents do not have access to transportation.
As one Gainesville resident and Community Spring Fellow, LaTashia Brimm, recently wrote, “The veil covering the full scope of food insecurity in our community has been shredded. COVID-19 has brought suffering and losses that we will never forget, but all of that pain is also an opportunity to finally make things better.”
Partners with Grace Grows in the planning project are community members and leaders in Southeast and East Gainesville, and Paul Monaghan, Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, and this work is supported by Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program [grant no. 2020-33800-33130] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.