By| Daria Laycock

Tallahassee’s own iGrow South City has been granted the honor of the Aetna Foundation Spotlight award.

This was done with good reason.  The award is given to programs that find innovative solutions to health problems and iGrow excels in that respect.

In the past iGrow, acting as the Youth Empowerment and Leadership Development Academy has gathered data related to the availability of fresh food in Tallahassee Frenchtown neighborhood.

YELDA found that majority of those residing on in the neighborhood lived without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. “We found that a lot of people get their food from dollar stores and convenience stores,” said Leigh Miles, Health Educator for the Florida Department of Health.

iGrow was started as a result of these findings.  The youth empowerment and urban agriculture program teach farming as a means of providing one accesses to nutritional foods thus alleviating the pressure caused by the lack thereof.

The organization has come to be known for its farm and it’s southside garden which aided in completing the duty of donating over 100 pounds of fresh food to those in need. It’s efforts went on to reach more than a third of those living in a food desert that is Frenchtown .

Of the organization’s most popular initiatives is the iGrow Bucket.

These buckets claim fresh produce with as little commitment as 5 minutes a week. This mini garden comes with a high nutrient compost mix and a pre-seeded food-bearing plant.

The Bucket cost $32 and the proceeds go towards new gardening tools for the workers.

This results in better health for those who participate. The program’s focus on health is what earned it the award.

iGrow was one of 10 health programs nationwide awarded. The program was selected with input from the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) as well as the Aetna Foundation.

Mark T. Bertolini, the chairman of the Aetna Foundation and chairman and CEO of Aetna called iGrow an  “…. outstanding examples of how important progress can be made when communities work together to look at the biggest issues facing their neighborhoods and develop healthy, home-grown solutions.”

This truly was a community effort.

The program organizes hired teens from the community in an attempt to give them transferable workplace skills. The people who receive the majority of the garden’s food are

As compensation, the organization will receive a prize of $25,000 according to a press release from the Aetna Foundation. The prize money is allocated so that the organizations can further develop their programs.

For iGrow, this means improvements to the facility and more employees.

 

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