The GardenWorks Project Support of Community Gardens in DuPage County


In 2017, our organization will initiate new programs to empower home and suburban food growers by practicing and teaching organic and sustainable methods, promoting community gardens, and providing access to resources. It is our vision that everyone in our community grows and eats fresh, local and healthy foods. By growing food together, we can make that vision a reality.

To further increase the supply of local foods in our communities, The GardenWorks Project will support those new and existing community gardens which have as one of their objectives growing food for donation to an area food pantry. In addition to access to our educational programs (including a new class on how to start a community garden) and tool lending library, GardenWorks could offer funds or in-kind resources to community gardeners.

For the purposes of this report, “community gardens” refers to gardens in a group setting where people grow food together and include gardens in neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and other locations.

Community gardens can benefit food-insecure families in DuPage County

The GardenWorks Project will likely never be able to build gardens for the estimated 76,000 individuals in DuPage County who are food insecure. By promoting community gardens and supporting those who wish to start or expand community gardens, GardenWorks’ target audience can benefit. 

  • Community gardens allow families and individuals without land of their own or the funds to start a garden the opportunity to produce food.
  • Community gardens provide access to nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals and may not be available at their local food pantry.
  • Community gardens offer groups of people to grow large quantities of food and donate surplus to food pantries, getting them involved in processes that provide food security and alleviate hunger.
  • Community gardens bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds, and allow people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side on common goals without speaking the same language.
  • Community gardens offer unique opportunities for new immigrants to produce traditional crops otherwise unavailable locally, and offer neighborhoods an access point to non-English speaking communities.
  • Community gardens offer unique opportunities to teach children where food comes from, the importance of community, and about environmental sustainability.

GardenWorks can reduce financial barriers to starting community gardens in DuPage County

Starting a new community garden can be expensive. Components to a successful community garden could include raised-garden beds, fresh soil, seeds, seedlings, irrigation, fencing, signage, a tool shed, tools, benches, and composting equipment. The cost of these items can be prohibitive when starting the garden. GardenWorks can help address these barriers by:

  • Offering start-up grant funding for the purchase of supplies 
  • Offering raised-bed garden packages which include prepared lumber, seeds, seedlings, installation instructions, educational opportunities, a book instructing how to start a community garden and membership in the GardenWorks Food Growers Network allowing the recipient to borrow tools and receive other benefits of membership
  • Sharing an up-to-date list of outside grant opportunities on our website

While our initial discussions centered on offering grant funding for community gardeners, raised-bed packages are likely more desirable. In that scenario, GardenWorks forms a deeper relationship with community gardeners, and they are in essence applying for and receiving the same items a client in our Home Gardening Program would, but in greater quantities.

If GardenWorks decides to pursue the route of giving funds for the purchase of gardening supplies, note that 501(c)(3) organizations may give funds to individuals or other entities, but “Adequate records and case histories should be maintained to show the name and address of each recipient, the amount distributed to each, and the purpose for which the aid was given, the manner in which the recipient was selected and the relationship, if any, between the recipient and members, officers, or trustees of the organization, in order that any or all distributions made to individuals can be substantiated upon request by the IRS.”

In whatever way GardenWorks chooses to support community gardeners, to align with our mission, any participating garden project should be required to have a policy whereby a portion of the food harvested is donated to an area food pantry. GardenWorks should provide community gardeners with a list of area pantries who will accept homegrown produce and tips on donating (i.e., harvesting, storing and transporting).

Offering community garden support also benefits GardenWorks

An increase in the number of community gardens that donate portions of their harvest to food pantries has a clear benefit to the hungry in DuPage County. GardenWorks’ support and promotion of community gardens can indirectly benefit the organization as well.

  • Exposes a new audience to our programs, volunteer and philanthropic opportunities
  • Provides our volunteers access to more opportunities to give of their time and talents throughout the gardening season by sharing the volunteer needs of grant recipients
  • Keeps Gardenworks engaged with our audience by giving us topics to communicate throughout the growing season