Tag Archives: gardening

Center Receives Grant to Expand Work with Food Pantries

Missouri Foundation for Health Logo

The Missouri Foundation for Health recently awarded the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security (ICFS) a five year, nearly $500,000 grant to expand nutrition related activities with food pantries in Missouri. With this grant, the Center will build upon its current Food Pantry Nutrition Project. “We are very honored to receive this grant and are excited by the opportunity it will provide to take this work to the next level,” said Bill McKelvey, project coordinator.

A primary goal of the project is to help food pantries find ways to get healthier food into the hands of people who use pantries. By forming Wellness Groups at each participating pantry, the project will  help food pantry staff, volunteers, and community members initiate projects and policies that ultimately lead to better health for food pantry clients.

Building on the successful Seeds that Feed pilot project, under this new grant ICFS and partners will distribute garden seeds and supplies to support home and community gardening efforts. Educational materials will be developed and learning opportunities are planned to build the capacity of food pantry clients to expand or start vegetable gardens.

The project will also include opportunities for food pantry staff and volunteers from across the state to network and learn from one another.

“We are trying to reach our goals by taking a variety of approaches, aimed at different levels, to make it easier for pantry clients to access and consume healthy foods and help food pantries sustain health and nutrition efforts over the long term,” said McKelvey.

The first two food pantries enrolled in the project are the Shelby County Food Pantry and St. James Caring Center. The project is supported by a host of partners including the Health Communication Research Center, the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, University of Missouri Extension, and the Missouri Food Bank Association.

Grow Well Missouri

grow well missouri logoGrow Well Missouri partners with food pantries, local organizations, and volunteers to establish food gardening programs that reach out to food pantry customers. By offering a selection of seeds, vegetable transplants, educational materials, and one-on-one advice, Grow Well Missouri helps those who use food pantries reap the many benefits of gardening.

The project stems from ongoing research of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security showing that rates of chronic health conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol) are significantly higher among food pantry clients than the general public.

Now in its fifth year, Grow Well Missouri is active with many partners across the state. Lead agencies include:

Shelby County Food Pantry (Shelbina), St. James Caring Center, Help Center (Mexico), Central Pantry (Columbia), Cargill Cares Food Pantry (California), Neighbors Helping Neighbors (Boonville), Crosslines (Joplin), Share the Harvest (Greenview), Hickory County C.A.R.E.S. (Wheatland), Dallas County Neighborhood Center (Buffalo),  Community Outreach Ministries (Bolivar), Master Gardeners of Greene County (Springfield), Shepherd’s Nook Food Pantry (Salem), Good Samaritan of the Ozarks (Waynesville), Randolph County Caring Communities (Moberly), Independent Living Center (Joplin), Willard School District/Community Food Pantry, the Morgan County Health Center (Versailles), Macon County Ministries, Schuyler County Food Room (Lancaster), Holts Summit Food Pantry, Helping Hands of Central Missouri (St. Elizabeth), and Tiger Pantry (Columbia).

Beyond Gardening

Grow Well Missouri goes beyond gardening. It builds community capacity by helping groups establish community gardens, initiate healthy food education, and leverage resources to meet their goals. It also works to assess the strengths of food pantries and develop tools to increase learning and sharing among agencies across Missouri.

The project is supported by a host of additional partners including the Health Communication Research Center, the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, University of Missouri Extension, local Master Gardener and Garden Club groups, and Feeding Missouri. Private companies including St. Louis CompostingMorgan County Seeds, and Strawberry Hill Farms provide support as well.

To learn more about the impact Grow Well Missouri is making, see our evaluation results from the 2016 gardening season. Contact Bill McKelvey, Grow Well Missouri Project Coordinator, at McKelveyWA [at] missouri [dot] edu for more information.


Funding for this project is provided in part by the Missouri Foundation for Health. The Missouri Foundation for Health is a philanthropic organization whose vision is to improve the health of the people in the communities it serves.


A host of educational materials are available on the Grow Well Missouri Resources page. Also check out our new publication, The Garden Starter.


Newsmaker — Grow Well Missouri helps local families (KMZU, 100.7 FM)
Food pantries help patrons grow their own produce (Harvest Public Media)
Grow Well Missouri: Helping a Rural Community Through Gardening (MU HCRC)
From the Ground Up: Grow Well helps with food insecurity and lack of healthy choices (CAFNR News)
MU to Help Foster Food Pantry Capacity, Education in Rural Missouri (MU News Bureau)
Better Food Choices, CAFNR team collaborates to improve food pantry nutrition  (CAFNR News)
Partnering for Improved Nutrition: MU interdisciplinary team works to improve nutrition and access to healthy foods (CAFNR News)