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Community Foundation Provides Grants for Community Gardens to Nourish, Educate, and Connect Community Members

8/8/2013

In the past two years, the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin has awarded $17,305 in grants to four organizations to start or enhance community gardens. The mission of each of the community gardens is to increase the awareness of good health, improve nutrition, and connect members of the community. The community gardens are making an impact on Marathon County by providing healthy food resources, developing healthy eating habits, improving attitudes toward agriculture and nutrition, and bringing community members together.

The four gardens are managed by Bridge Community Health Clinic, The Neighbors’ Place, Hatley Elementary School, and the School District of Stratford, however all community members are invited and encouraged to participate in producing and consuming the goods from the gardens. In addition, the School District of Stratford and Hatley Elementary School are incorporating the gardens into their curriculums to educate students.

Hatley Elementary School has maintained a community garden for five years and is now expanding to bring the Farm to School program to its school and community. Farm to School is a program supported by the USDA which connects schools with local or regional farmers, food processors, and manufacturers in order to serve locally produced foods in the school cafeterias. The Community Foundation awarded Hatley Elementary with a Beyond Pencils and Crayons grant of $2,000 to purchase a greenhouse, heaters, and shelving to expand the growing season year round and to purchase curricular materials to integrate the greenhouse into classroom lessons.

The School District of Stratford is using its garden to enhance its classrooms, lunchrooms, and local food pantries. The Community Foundation awarded Stratford School District a $2,250 Beyond Pencils and Crayons grant to buy supplies for students to build multiple hydroponics systems to grow produce, fencing, materials to build compost bins and a raised bed for handicap accessibility, and cleaning supplies to clean produce for the school lunch program. All students in the school district have the opportunity to use the greenhouse for learning experiences, and the produce is served in all schools in the district. As community members are invited to join in maintaining the gardens, students feel more connected to the community they live in and more aware of where their food comes from.

The Wausau 2nd Street Community Garden, developed by Bridge Community Health Clinic, started in 2011 with 9,000 square feet of growing space. In the first year, 17 of the 20 raised garden beds were rented by families—over half of the families were low income - while three of the garden beds were used for community donation, allowing for over 214 pounds of produce to be donated to The Neighbors’ Place.

As a part of the Community Foundation’s celebration of its 25th anniversary, the foundation awarded 25 for 25 Anniversary Grants to 25 nonprofit organizations in Marathon County. The Neighbors’ Place received a $3,055 grant to develop its community gardens called the Hoop Houses. Construction on the first Hoop House will begin this fall. “By the time we harvest everything from the garden at The Neighbors' Place we anticipate about 500 - 600 families will get a taste,” said executive director of The Neighbors’ Place, Tom Rau.

For more information about the Hatley Elementary School community garden or the Farm to School program, contact Tammy Fischer at 715-446-3336 or tfischer@dce.k12.wi.us. For The Stratford School District community garden contact Rebecca Wirkus at 715-687-4311 ext 324 or rebeccaw@stratford.k12.wi.us. Contact Laura Scudiere at lauras@bridgeclinic.com  or 715-848-4884, for more details about the Wausau 2nd Street Community Garden and for information about the Hoop Houses, contact Tom Rau at 715-845-1966.

The Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin is a nonprofit community corporation, created by and for the people of north central Wisconsin, and exists to enhance the quality of the greater Wausau area.

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