The Rutabaga Project is a shared initiative between the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA), the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAPEd), Essentia Health, Healthy Northland and numerous other community organizations, local food producers and residents.
Since its inception in December 2015, over 60 low-income people living in three impoverished neighborhoods in the City of Virginia have attended community conversations and identified neighborhood-specific solutions to food insecurity. In response, the Rutabaga Project developed community gardens, become a certified food support (SNAP EBT) provider at the Virginia Farmers Market, purchased three Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) shares – one for each neighborhood and coupled education with these actions.
Growing Together is a project created to develop community gardens in Virginia and offer gardening educational opportunities to all residents. During the summer of 2016, the City of Virginia provided three sites in neighborhoods experiencing the most difficulty obtaining quality produce for use as community gardens. Thirty children and adults helped with the gardens and acquired the produce. Starting the 2017 season, there will be approximately sixty plots at four locations. A Gardening Mentor program will be offered this year, so experienced gardeners can share their knowledge with beginners and encourage them to continue growing.
Through the Rutabaga Project, the Virginia Market Square (VMS) was established where local farmers gather to provide produce to the public. Through the support of the partners, families in economic despair could utilize the Market through SNAP-EBT, $10 Essentia Health match and $10 Market Bucks match. Also, each week between three and twenty-three people participated in obtaining fresh, healthy foods from provided CSA shares. This will increase to twice a week this year and partners have added shares for the local Meals on Wheels program to include in their home delivered meal service for homebound seniors.
In its first year of operation, The Rutabaga Project has been very successful. The beliefs, values and missions of each partner separately sync harmoniously with the mission of the Rutabaga Project, allowing for the program to continue to grow beyond the initial neighborhoods.
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