The Community Transformation Grant project increases access to healthy foods in the city, county
The City of Twin Falls is using funds from the Community Transformation Grant it received from the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health to increase access to healthy foods in the community.
The city partnered with the University of Idaho Extension in Twin Falls County to create community gardens. The Extension built 14 garden sites at a variety of locations, including area schools, senior centers, refugee centers and churches.
“All of these partners are serving clients with limited resources,” said Siew Guan Lee, an educator at the University of Idaho Extension.
Access to healthy foods, along with physical activity, are important components of building healthy communities. The Community Transformation Grant provides the city $250,000 in funding to address these root causes to health issues through programs and projects, including the community garden project.
In addition to the gardens, the University of Idaho Extension has offered gardening and nutrition classes at the sites to teach people how to grow their own produce and how to use it once harvested. The classes often include taste testing and cooking demonstrations to increase exposure and experience with healthy foods.
“They’re an excellent organization to partner with because they brought all of these resources to the table,” said Mandi Thompson, the assistant to the City Manager for the City of Twin Falls, who is on the team of community leaders managing the grant. “Each of their projects brought a level of sustainability and are things we can expand and replicate.”
Since the community gardens were built, there has been interest from other schools and organizations to add gardens for both producing food and educational opportunities. The team managing the grant is working with the University of Idaho on next steps.
Shawnee Kyle, a small business owner in Twin Falls and on the team managing the grant, said the long history of the U of I Extension in the area gives the gardening project credibility and could help in garnering additional support to grow the program.
“I remember going to the U of I with my grandmother to check her pressure cooker before canning season – it just has a longstanding history in our community,” Kyle said. “They’ve been food processing and gardening for generations. They are an excellent partner.”
The gardens have been featured in local media and the feedback has been positive.
“It’s exciting seeing that access to fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs,” says RoseAnna Holliday, a grant team member who is the department chair of Health Sciences at the College of Southern Idaho.