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The mission of this cause.
To eliminate food insecurity in Macon County, Illinois through horticultural job skills training to the disadvantaged.
The community need this cause addresses.
Food insecurity, healthy food supply, vacant lots, and unemployment are tremendous issues in Decatur. Despite Decatur’s central location in America’s agricultural heartland, a large portion of Decatur is considered a food desert according to the USDA defined low income/low access census tract. Not only are many citizens food insecure, a large portion are “nutrient insecure”. Low-income residents, in addition to other disadvantages, have to deal with diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. A 2012 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program found that 33% of Macon County adults are obese. Much of this is tied to the lack of availability and affordability of healthy produce. In 2013, Macon County’s unemployment rate ranked 362 out of 372 urban areas in the country. With 880 properties being condemned or demolished since 2000, Decatur also has plenty of empty lots of what used to be some of the most fertile soil in the world.
How will this cause use the $25K to address an unmet need?
Decatur Is Growing Gardeners (DIGG) and The Good Samaritan Inn, a local soup kitchen, have teamed up to provide job skills training in landscaping and produce production to those who are unable to obtain or hold a job. Students’ time will be split between classroom lessons and hands-on experience on 3 acres of urban farms located in a food insecure neighborhood. The majority of the food grown will go to The Good Samaritan, as well as a local food pantry, with the rest being sold at farmer’s markets. In this way, Mercy Gardens will provide food to at least 300 food and nutrient insecure people daily, green 3 acres of vacant city lots (this year) and teach 20 low-income, disadvantaged people annually, to provide for themselves and become entrepreneurs/skilled workers. The $25k would provide scholarships for students, fund an EBT machine, buy berry bushes to supply healthy fruit, coordinate volunteers, create an irrigation system to save on labor and costs, and raise tilapia.
How much of a lasting impact on the community will this cause have?
Eliminating food insecurity would create healthier, nutrient secure citizens. Education programs like Mercy Gardens give people lifelong skills to provide for themselves. This knowledge is more powerful than a hot meal. A hot meal can feed someone for a day but education and skills to provide your own hot meals can feed a person for a lifetime. Student graduates will become mentors upon graduation, passing their knowledge on to future generations- expanding impacts multi-generationally. Graduates will also be able to work for local farmers, continue their schooling, or become entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will take over additional lots and/or operational branches of Mercy Gardens, helping to expand food supply and chip away at food insecurity. The more graduates, the more farmers. The more farmers, the more local food supply. The more local food supply, the less food insecurity. Mercy Gardens’ education ensures growth food supply, creating farther reaching effects.
State Farm Youth Advisory Board