Backyard Growers awarded Community First Grant to increase healthy food access in Gloucester

Whole Cities Foundation announces 44 local community partners through innovative grant program.

Whole Cities Foundation, an independent nonprofit foundation established by Whole Foods Market, awarded Gloucester-based Backyard Growers a $5,000 Community First Grant, to fund healthy eating initiatives in the city.

With the support of the Whole Cities Foundation, Backyard Growers built the Willowood Community Garden in the fall of 2017.

With the support of the Whole Cities Foundation, Backyard Growers built the Willowood Community Garden in the fall of 2017.

Backyard Growers, in partnership with Gloucester Housing Authority, will be using grant funds to improve fresh food access in Gloucester by establishing new community gardens and expanding existing gardens at housing communities throughout the city. Backyard Growers has 64 gardening beds in low-income housing communities as well as 9 community gardens throughout Gloucester. Their school garden programs are in every school in the Gloucester Public School District, serving over 2,000 students, and their school garden program model is now being used in Manchester, Rockport, Marblehead, Lynn, and Chicopee School Districts as well.

Now in its second year, the Community First Grant Program aims to support partnerships between Whole Foods Market Team Members and community-led organizations working to increase access to healthy food and nutrition information in their communities. The grant awarded to Backyard Growers in Gloucester is part of a $220,000 investment in 44 organizations in 40 cities across 26 states. Projects funded this year include urban farming projects, mobile produce markets, and educational programs for healthy eating, gardening and agricultural skills.

“At Whole Cities, we have a vision for an America where fresh, healthy food is affordable and accessible to everyone, regardless of income or zip code,” says Walter Robb, Chairman, Whole Cities Foundation Board. “This national grant program allows us to find and support a network of grassroots organizations that have developed unique solutions to increase the availability of fresh, healthy food in their own communities.”

The Community First Grant Program is one example of Whole Foods Market’s “Community First” principles, where community-led organizations and local residents build their local food system. Through the program, the foundation seeks to amplify the outcomes of the solutions set in place by community leaders.

“What’s unique about this program is that it’s our own Team Members who shine the light on these worthwhile grant recipients,” adds Robb. “In some cases, it’s the Team Members themselves who are the grantees, bringing Whole Foods Market’s passion for a healthier world to their own community and with their own heart. We could not be prouder of them.”

The next opportunity for Whole Foods Market Team Members to apply in support of a community organization will be spring 2018.

Whole Foods and Backyard Growers team members at Willowood Community Garden after a hard day’s work filling gardens with fresh soil.

Whole Foods and Backyard Growers team members at Willowood Community Garden after a hard day’s work filling gardens with fresh soil.

About Whole Cities Foundation

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Founded in 2014, Whole Cities Foundation is an independent nonprofit established by Whole Foods Market that is dedicated to improving neighborhood health through collaborative community partnerships, nutrition education, and broader access to fresh, healthy food. Since the launch of the Community First Grant Program, the foundation has grown from serving five cities with its initial work to supporting over 60 cities that includes partnerships with over 100 community organizations. For more information on Whole Cities Foundation, visit: wholecitiesfoundation.org.

About Backyard Growers

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Backyard Growers (BYG) creates life-long gardeners inspired by the power of growing and eating one's own food. We provide resources and support to establish backyard, community, and school vegetable gardens, and offer gardening, nutrition and cooking workshops to the community. BYG serves low- to moderate-income residents and public school children in Gloucester, and we share our program models regionally to increase our impact. We believe that by growing some of our own food, we are empowered, connected, and strengthened. For more information, visit: http://www.backyardgrowers.org/