Brucemore greenhouse

Markers denote the vegetables planted by students for a gardening program at the Brucemore greenhouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A new Cultivate Iowa campaign, launched April 19, 2013, encourages Iowans to plant gardens and donate produce. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

A new program I mentioned earlier this month officially launched today. The Cultivate Iowa  campaign encourages gardeners to donate some of their harvest to a local food pantry to help ensure that all Iowans have regular access to safe and nutritious food.

The program also wants low-income Iowans to look at gardening as a way to eat healthy and save money.

Here is more from today’s event:

DES MOINES, April 19, 2013–The Iowa Food Systems Council today announced the launch of Cultivate Iowa, an initiative promoting the benefits of food gardening and produce donation to create a sustainable future and healthier communities in Iowa.

“This project aims to promote food security and improve the health of Iowans by increasing access to garden produce through integrated coordination, social marketing and outreach strategies,” says Elizabeth Danforth Richey, one of the project coordinators.

Through extensive research, Cultivate Iowa identified how food gardening could positively impact individuals, families, organizations and communities. By talking with food pantry staff and volunteers, low-resource Iowans and current food gardeners, Cultivate Iowa designed a program to help all Iowa communities.

“By increasing the number of food gardeners in our communities, we can begin to increase food security throughout our cities and the entire state of Iowa,” says project coordinator Angie Tagtow. “Food pantries appreciate having fresh produce in stock. Families love seeing it at pantries and it’s usually the first thing off the shelves, so it never goes to waste. The key to remember is that all fresh produce is happily received and every little bit helps.” Visit to learn more about food gardening and easy ways to start a garden.

Gardeners may also join the program by pledging to donate fresh produce in their community. Once you have made the promise to donate, you enter your ZIP code to find organizations that accept fresh produce. At the end of the growing season, gardeners can report back how much they donated through a post-harvest survey. Gardeners can promise to donate produce at

“All you really need to get started is a container, some potting soil and either seeds or plants.” says Tagtow.

For more information about Cultivate Iowa, please visit

About Cultivate Iowa

Cultivate Iowa is an initiative of the Iowa Food Systems Council’s Food Access & Health Work Group (FAHWG) to promote the benefits of food gardening and produce donation to create a sustainable future and healthier communities in Iowa.

Through outreach and community engagement, Cultivate Iowa aims to inspire Iowans to grow some of their own produce and live healthier lifestyles. In addition, Cultivate Iowa is focused on empowering gardeners and community members to donate fresh produce to their local food pantries or other community organizations. For further information, visit

About the Iowa Food Systems Council

The Iowa Food Systems Council is an emerging member-based nonprofit organization whose charge is to monitor Iowa’s food and health landscape, to encourage and coordinate connections between food system leaders and decision makers. The Council also identifies policies, programs and research that cultivate a resilient and sustainable food system – a food system that builds healthier Iowans, communities, economies and the environment. For further information, visit