How YOU Can Increase The Availability of Fresh Food In Your Community

Did you know that according to the CDC your zip code is a greater indicator of your health and longevity than your genetic code? This is partly because 23 million Americans live in low-income and rural neighborhoods more than a mile from the nearest supermarket. One solution is to bring the fresh fruits and vegetables to those who need it. And neighborhood gardens can do that and so much more!

The Aetna Foundation seeks to fund the creation and expansion of innovative approaches to make community gardens, urban farms and farmers markets available to vulnerable communities

Aetna Go Local GrantsA few years ago, while living in Jacksonville, FL, I worked for a non-profit with many programs including a Refugee Resettlement Program as well as a food bank. I worked in fundraising writing grants for programs very similar to this. I was able to see first hand all the amazing benefits of the community garden that was used by the refugees! Gardens not only provide healthy nutritious food for people living in areas where access is non-existent but they also provide education and awareness as well as  a sense of community and purpose. Many times these refugees entered our country with only a small bag and no idea where they were going to be resettled. This community garden gave them the opportunity to meet other refugees, sometimes from their own country, provide food for themselves, and earn money selling the extra food they didn’t need. 

The Aetna Foundation is looking for situations where a community garden starts, the community starts to take notice and the entrepreneur can then sell the produce. Specifically programs must include one of the following:

  • Nutrition education or cooking classes focused on the health benefits of fresh produce
  • Growth or distribution of produce that reflects the food traditions of the target area
  • Opportunities to learn job skills or entrepreneurship within the context of gardens, farms or farmers markets
  • Opportunities for community service or volunteer work with the project

And don’t worry! You don’t need a green thumb to do this! There are so many resources that can help like your local extension service. 

With  49 million Americans, including 15.8 million children living in food insecure households the time to make a change is now! And fresh food is the place to start. According to the CDC 9 in 10 children don’t eat enough vegetables. While we may shake our head at our kids who refuse vegetables, we have to remember that many kids don’t even get the opportunity or understand the importance. The Aetna Foundation wants to change that. Go Local!

If there aren’t resources available in your community, encourage local non-profits and state and local government agencies to apply for the Local Roots RFP. All non-profit and community organizations with 501 (c)(3) status, and state and local government agencies are eligible to apply. This includes school systems! The proposal deadline is May 6, 2015 at 5 p.m. ET 

Visit to learn more about the GoLocal: Cultivating Healthy Communities Grants and join the conversation at #GoLocalGrants.