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Southern Illinois donation garden feeds the community

A freshly mulched donation garden.

MARION, Ill. – Food insecurity affects every community within our state, but it's not just about hunger. It's about having access to food options that meet nutritional needs, which is particularly important for individuals and families with limited resources.

Through collaborative efforts with The Salvation Army of Southern Illinois, Marion First Presbyterian Church, and The City of Marion, Illinois Extension established the Cultivating Care Donation Garden in 2021 to feed our local communities.

The garden starts in each spring, with staff and volunteers leading the way to plant a variety of plants and vegetables. During the growing season, volunteers help with garden maintenance and upkeep. This includes the task of harvesting and delivering fresh produce to the Salvation Army Food Pantry. SNAP-Ed Educator Toni Kay Wright said the volunteers truly make a difference in the garden's success.

"Many schools and organizations volunteer a week of service to the garden," said Wright. "When everyone pitches here and there, it helps to ensure healthy produce is making its way to food pantry shelves each and every week."

What did the numbers look like for the 2023 growing season?

  • Five pollinator plants
  • 29 different herbs, fruits, and vegetables
  • 642 pounds of produce donated
  • 383 additional pounds of tomatoes and cucumbers from the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center

This totaled over 1,000 pounds of donated produce for The Salvation Army of Southern Illinois Food Pantry. The continued work with area partners helps reduce hunger and provides residents with access to fresh, healthy produce. If you would like to volunteer during the 2024 growing season, please contact the Williamson County Extension office at (618) 993-3304.

SOURCE: Toni Kay Wright, SNAP-Ed educator,, (618) 993-3304

WRITER: Heather Willis, marketing and communications coordinator,, (618) 357-2126

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.