Awarded $30,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency at the end of October for their growth of sustainable neighborhoods, Kansas City Community Gardens (KCCG) and their Giving Grove project can now extend their reach and increase food production.
The award is part of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program, which offers funding to organizations that would otherwise be unable to fully reach their goals.
“This is the first federal grant we’ve ever received,” said Rob Reiman, executive director of the Giving Grove. “That’s new and different for us, so we’re very excited. This project is five years in the making, and this is a pretty big step for us.”
The Giving Grove works to enact sustainable tree groves in low-income communities to produce healthy, free food. There are several groves in the Northeast already, including at Lykins Square Park, KCUMB, Pendleton Heights, and Indian Mound.
“We have orchards in those communities because we believe they need a lot of food in those particular areas,” Reiman said. “We have about eight or nine projects in the Northeast, but I’d feel a lot better if we had 50.”
Reiman said that this grant alone won’t support that many groves, but went on to offer what he believes will lead to that kind of success.
“The key to all of this is identifying a couple of people who are passionate about their neighborhood, who are committed to growing a food system to support the entire neighborhood,” Reiman said. “If I had ten different neighborhoods in the Historic Northeast that would commit to finding these people, we could make that happen by next spring for sure.”
In order for this idea to happen, Reiman said there would need to be a few key individuals who were willing to care for the trees. Reiman said the Giving Grove’s business model is built to simplify orchard care, but still requires that people learn to care for and prune trees that in the end will produce a lot of food.
“Every orchard is different in size and what we put in it. But on average, you get to about 14 trees,” Reiman said. “And 14 trees will generate about $6,000 worth of food annually. So down the road, that’s a lot of food, a lot of free food, and it just happens to be healthy food.”
Reiman hopes with their grant money and the willingness of the Northeast community to make a long-term commitment that the Giving Grove will be able to make a lasting positive impact here.