Growing Power to develop community food centers with $5 million grant

Growing Power announced plans to create community food centers at locations across the country with a five-year, $5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

With a mission to give communities of color and low-income neighborhoods direct access to healthy produce, the food centers will be stationed in Detroit; New Orleans; Taos, N.M.; and in the Mississippi delta of Arkansas and Mississippi.

According to Growing Power CEO Will Allen and his team, the Milwaukee-based nonprofit will help each food center with infrastructure development and will tailor the infrastructure to the specific climate and needs of each city. While each infrastructure will look a little different, they will replicate some of the agricultural production models Growing Power relies on such as hoop-houses for year-round cultivation of plants and vegetables and a livestock inventory.

Leana Nakielski, development manager of Growing Power, said the nonprofit wants its community food source to serve as a source of inspiration and demonstration of what’s possible to the food centers funded by the grant.

“We can give a menu of these different types of production and different types of programming so people can see what’s possible and pick and choose what’s right for them,” Nakielski said.

“We want people to see it and feel that they can do it,” she said.

Growing Power established a relationship with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2008 when Allen presented a breakout session based around social justice and food at the foundation’s national biannual conference. There he met Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president of program strategy for the foundation.

The foundation invited Growing Power to apply for funding that same year but did not end up awarding the organization a grant at that time. It did, however, give Growing Power a grant in 2009 for its Growing Capacity for the Green Economy Program, which focused on preparing youth and individuals to enter the field of urban agriculture.

The latest grant was announced during the nonprofit’s Urban & Small Farm Conference Sept. 7-9 at the Wisconsin State Fair Park where people gathered from all over the country to discuss food sustainability efforts in line with Allen’s Good Food Revolution.

The conference featured keynote speeches from Allen, Christopher and other leaders in food production, environmental education and youth leadership. It also included breakout sessions and panel discussions centering on topics like urban planning strategies, food and justice, empowering youth to become the farmers of tomorrow, and food systems and cities.

According to Allen, part of the purpose behind the conference revolved around building on the progress Growing Power made at its 2010 conference where he asked participants to “go back home and to go to work.”

“Boy did they do that,” Allen said. “They went back and achieved the results of many more people coming here. As I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve seen all kinds of new programs springing up, so we’ve really started to scale up urban agriculture, agriculture in rural communities, small towns, villages around the world where people are growing locally, local food. And that’s what’s going to change the food system.”

Allen hopes to keep the momentum rolling.

“This conference…is about how we have to continue to build these relationships and these partnerships around the country,” Allen said. “This whole thing is really about social and food justice to make sure everybody has access to safe, affordable food at all times.”

He also saluted the “unsung heroes” behind the food revolution.

“It’s those people that are working behind the scenes, those people in the communities that are doing the heavy lifting, that are working on the grassroots that are really building this revolution,” Allen said.

For more information about Growing Power’s mission and community initiatives, visit

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