G is for Grants giving Generosity and Goodness by Chrystine Gaffney, Master Gardener and Volunteer Coordinator

Once upon a time there was a Pathmark in Montclair, NJ. Many people who didn’t have cars went there to get their food because it was soooo centrally located and affordable for everyone! Then one day the Pathmark closed. Much unrest ensued and as much as they tried, many people tried to get another food store of some kind to be inserted into the same location. Or a farmer’s market? Something to keep  good nutrition present in that area. Sure, the city set up bus services to local food stores – but the further stores were more expensive – by a lot. The efforts were not enough and so many felt there was now a food desert in that area. It just wasn’t the same.

Enter Montclair Community Farms Coalition and 4-H clubs in the area. The coalition researched the problem and saw how it rippled outward to other areas of Montclair. They were growing fresh vegetables and wanted to sell them at low cost to the people affected by the lack of the Pathmark. Through grant funding, they obtained not only a Mobile Farm Stand, a pickup truck to pull the Mobile Farm Stand, a refrigerator to keep extra vegetables fresh for the next farm stand trip, but also a big hoop house so they wouldn’t have to buy the seedlings in the springtime but instead start them from seed themselves in the winter months.

Now they have a NJ Healthy Communities Grant that further enables them to easily bring vegetables to the small convenience stores to share with their customers around Montclair. Now all year long they can educate the community about how nutritious food can happen healthier and more sustainably through workshops. The generosity of the NJ Healthy Communities Grant enables these efforts to ripple out through Montclair and fill the needs of the community – one tomato at a time.

As a Rutgers Master Gardener who gets to create and organize the workshops designed to improve the overall health of the community, I am so very grateful to work with New Jersey Healthy Communities Network and Partners for Health Foundation. We can't believe we get to be involved in these special projects through this wonderful grant which makes us overall, healthier, too!