Frederick Food Security Network Awarded Grants to Expand Operations

FREDERICK, Maryland—Hood College’s Frederick Food Security Network (FFSN) has been awarded two grants to help maintain and expand its community gardens.

HEAL Cities, an organization that helps municipalities create healthy and prosperous communities, has granted the City of Frederick $8,160 with the FFSN as the implementation partner. The funding will help pay for expenses associated with expanding FFSN operations to include three greenhouses. The greenhouses will enable the FFSN to grow and distribute produce for more months of the year than traditional outdoor growing allows.

The Ausherman Family Foundation, an organization that supports community efforts to make Frederick County a viable and attractive place to live and work, has awarded $10,000 to the FFSN for operating expenses and to hire a full-time program manager.

In just two years, the FFSN has established four community gardens in low-income neighborhoods, and food is distributed through six partner nonprofit organizations. In 2018, the first two gardens and more than 180 volunteers grew more than 1,500 pounds of produce distributed to about 400 Frederick families that live in food deserts—areas with a high concentration of low-income residents without easy access to a grocery store. There are more than 500 such families in the City of Frederick.

“Our partnerships within the Frederick community are the keys to our success,” said Connie Ray, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and FFSN program manager. “We have a robust network of partners, including nonprofits, government agencies, religious groups and the local hospital. Many of them are garden partners, while others are distribution partners or partners who collaborate to offer nutrition educational services such as cooking classes.”

The HEAL grant will enable the FFSN to operate a greenhouse this year, which will provide more space to grow food and a longer time—an eight-month growing season—to provide that food to families. This project will provide no-cost, healthy produce to more families that do not otherwise have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The Frederick Community Action Agency will provide guidance when needed through its established contacts with the area’s low-income residents.

The Ausherman grant will enable the FFSN to continue its rapid expansion by hiring a full-time program manager to lead all aspects of the program. In the next year, under the direction of the full-time manager, the FFSN will strive to grow and distribute more than 2,500 pounds of produce; distribute produce to 500 Frederick households; establish operations of a greenhouse to extend the growing season; employ eight student workers to help maintain the gardens; and plan and host community outreach events and garden roundtable/training events.

“We have expanded our efforts to host community outreach events and workshops and to hire students to work in the gardens, both from Hood College and from the New Horizons program for high school students,” said Ray. “The FFSN’s rapid expansion has been exciting, but in order to ensure its long-term success, the program’s organizational capacity must expand to meet its demands.”

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