April is National Volunteer Month | Volunteer Generation Fund Makes an Impact on Hunger, Health in Iowa

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This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are leveraging the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through their Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) activities. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

IOWA. The mission of Volunteer Iowa, the state service commission in the Hawkeye state, is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Volunteer Iowa administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to 5 different community organizations throughout the state who mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

One such VGF subgrantee, the United Way of Wapello County Volunteer Center in Ottumwa, has mobilized more than 100 unique volunteers in 600 hours of service to address the issues of hunger and access to healthy food in their community. The organization hosts a food pantry garden sponsored by corporations and community groups. The garden is also supported with skill-based volunteer positions including Spanish language interpreters, Master Gardeners, local engineers, and soil quality experts.

Volunteers help build and repair raised beds, till the soil, plant the produce, regularly mow, weed, pick produce, and tend bee hives. Volunteers also constructed an arbor and bench for visitors to the garden. The over 4,000 pounds of produce grown during this year, and was donated to the local food bank and meal sites. Several neighborhood-based community gardens were organized, where local residents raised their own garden produce.  Volunteers express satisfaction in getting outside and giving back, and community members benefit from healthy fresh produce.

During this time period they also hosted four gardening classes led by skill-based volunteers covering the subjects of beekeeping, starting seeds, fertilizing, and making pollinator seed bombs. The classes were free of charge and open to the public.

To learn more about Volunteer Iowa and its programs, visit volunteeriowa.org/icvs-programs.