Wilmington College started the Grow Food Grow Hope Community Garden Initiative in the spring of 2009, following the decision of DHL to close the doors of its Wilmington, Ohio air-park. With over 8,000 jobs vanishing in a county that only has approximately 42,000 residents, Clinton County was soon faced with an economic downturn that many people were not expecting.The Inside of Grow Food Grow Hope
The increasing levels of poverty in the surrounding communities spurred new inventive ideas, of most importance, finding a way for economically unstable residents to offset food costs and increase sustainability. The initial funding for our program was over $159,000, granted from federal stimulus funds through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. These funds were used to support 9 full-time VISTA volunteers and the construction of 20 raised beds located on Wilmington College’s campus, known as the Friends of Hope Community Gardens- the centerpiece of the program. Grow Food Grow Hope is not only contained to these 20 4’x12’ raised garden beds, however.
GFGH also started the Backyard Gardener’s Program, where VISTA volunteers helped construct and maintain raised garden beds in participant’s own backyards, and developed a Youth Outreach program targeting pre-school to elementary age children. Grow Food Grow Hope’s goal is more than just teaching others to grow their own food, but determined on building a community based on education and inspiration when times get tough.
With Grow Food Grow Hope now entering its fifth year, the results of our efforts have led to just that. We have reached over 10,000 people from all around Clinton County, whether it is through one of our monthly gardening workshops, a weekly Garden Night, or one of our free summer camps. We have had over 1,500 volunteer instances since our inception on Wilmington College’s campus. This has led to a little over 10,000 volunteer currently, and we can only hope for just as many in our future.
This commitment to the Clinton County community is what makes Grow Food Grow Hope a successful program. Our efforts have led to the donation of over $31,000 in kind resources and an astonishing $873,786 received from grants and cash donations. These numbers highlight Clinton County’s realization of the good that Grow Food Grow Hope is creating, and is willing to support us as we expand into more than just self-sustaining food production.
The future goals of Grow Food Grow Hope are leading us in system development regarding increased food distribution from major groceries in Wilmington. We have applied for a grant in order to fund a large refrigerator able to hold excess food we receive as donation, until we can later deliver the goods to local homeless shelters or food pantries.
The future of Grow Food Grow Hope is looking increasingly bright, even more so than its already inventive past. We look forward to continuing efforts with the less fortunate in Clinton County as well as showing its residents there is a viable way to stand up against poverty and hunger.
Kyle Marsh, 2013 Summer Associate