TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Community gardens, like the food they grow, have popped up in popularity over the years, especially during the pandemic. The gardens are an attempt to tackle food insecurity in underserved areas and to create a green footprint in urban jungles.

But, keeping those gardens alive can be costly. On Wednesday, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced $800,000 in grant funding for those gardens to expand and sustain the food supply chain in the state.

“There is incredibly limited funding that exists for community gardens and urban farming. People are just really becoming aware of how valuable these spaces are to the individuals who participate and the greater community,” says Amy Klein, CEO of Capital Roots which operates 54 community gardens in the Capital Region.

Funding through the Urban Farms and Community Gardens grant program, according to the state, will help “offset costs associated with projects that focus on food production, food safety, and food distribution, while creating a lasting impact on local food resiliency, and can be used to fund worker wages, contractual expenses, equipment, and other operating expenses. Eligible applicants include not-for-profit organizations, not-for-profit educational institutions, municipal government entities, and Indian tribal organizations,” the Department of Agriculture and Markets says in a press release.

Klein says there are more benefits to community gardens than just providing food. “They increase property values for the surrounding community. They beautify the community and they create opportunities in other ways for people to interact.” 

According to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, about 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 7 children are considered food insecure. “Before the pandemic, we had an 8% food insecurity rate and we thought okay the pandemic is over, we’re coming out of it and then inflation hit. So with inflation there has been a little uptick in people who are needing food,” says Holly Nicol, CEO of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

For more information on the program and how to apply, visit agriculture.ny.gov/rfp-0280-urban-farms-and-community-gardens-grant-program. A virtual webinar with information about the program, how to apply, and eligibility requirements will be held on November 18. For questions or to RSVP, please contact communitygardens.taskforce@agriculture.ny.gov.