(WOODSTOCK, Ill. – ) As the fruit and vegetable growing season begins, University of Illinois Extension McHenry County Master Gardeners are finding ways to volunteer “virtually” and donate food from their home gardens to fight food insecurity issues in McHenry County.

The mission of the program, called “Growing for Good,” allows the 143 Extension Master Gardener volunteers to grow vegetables and fruits from their home gardens so that they may donate them to their local food pantries this season.

            “The ‘Growing for Good’ program involves our statewide commitment to working on food insecurity issues as well as our horticulture education mission,” says Brenda Dahlfors, program coordinator for the McHenry County Extension Master Gardeners. “In short, Extension Master Gardeners in this program would be required to fill out an application that identifies what and how much they plan to grow (for example, three tomato plants and a 3-foot row of green beans). They must also designate which food pantry they will be donating to.” Dahlfors adds that EMG volunteers can claim up to two hours per week of volunteer time for planting, weeding, harvesting, watering and traveling when they drop off their donations.

When Extension Master Gardeners donate their fresh homegrown produce, they record the poundage onto a tracking website within the program. Last season, in 2020, statewide Extension Master Gardeners donated more than 4,600 pounds through this project – McHenry County was responsible for 729 of those pounds. “We hope to donate even more this year,” Dahlfors says.

            The “Growing for Good” program also provides Extension Master Gardeners with volunteer opportunities while still complying with governmental and University Covid-19 policies. “So it’s a win-win situation,” Dahlfors adds. “Extension Master Gardeners get to continue their service to the community, and they can help reduce food insecurity within their hometowns.”

            For more information, email Brenda Dahlfors at dahlfors@illinois.edu or call the U of I Extension McHenry County office at 815-338-3737.

 

SOURCE:  Brenda Dahlfors, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Program Coordinator in McHenry County

 

WRITER: Michelle Walsh, Office Support Associate, University of Illinois Extension in McHenry County

 

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