- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A University of Missouri program is offering people who do not have enough food a chance to grow some of their own by distributing seeds and vegetable plants to food pantries.

The program, called Grow Well Missouri, has distributed more than 22,000 seed packets and plant starters to four food pantries in northeast and mid-Missouri since it started in early 2013. It is funded by a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1t2rWjC ).

Missouri ranks seventh in the nation for food insecurity, meaning people who don’t have access to enough affordable food. Almost 14 percent of residents are food insecure, according to the 2013 Missouri Hunger Atlas, a product of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security.

Project coordinator Bill McKelvey said the goal for the project’s second year is to establish a sustainable seed-distribution program with community support that will outlive the current project.

“When we’re out working with groups to distribute seed, we’re only working with them for about two years,” McKelvey said. “Then, we have to step back and hope that we have developed a partnership so that what we started will live on.”

The first seed distribution was at the Shelby County Food Pantry and St. James Caring Center and it was expanded to the Central Pantry in Columbia and the Help Center in Mexico. The goal is to reach eight pantries in northeast and central Missouri.

Typically, the project holds events each week in the winter for spring vegetables and another round of distribution events in the summer for fall harvests. The summer distribution wrapped up in late July.

Central Pantry Supervisor Sean Ross said people who use Grow Well Missouri have been positive about the program.

“Some people don’t have a place to plant at all, but the ones who do stopped and asked about the program,” he said. “A couple of people have said they’ve really enjoyed their gardens.”

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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