MLL Cares Program Spotlight: Grow Jackson
It’s time for another MLL Cares blog post! Next up, Grow Jackson, which you guessed it, is located in the city of Jackson. Our own Chris Cook actually found this organization and lives in the Jackson area too, so this one is literally close to home for him. For those of you who may not know, MLL Cares is a program we have at the agency that donates $500 to a local charity or non-profit that benefits the community directly. We have an in house committee that determines which nonprofits we would like to support for the month, but we also accept suggestions from those we help insure as well. That means that a charity you support and that’s close to you, can be featured in one of our upcoming months! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion and a quick write up along with contact information for your charity of choice!
Now let’s get digging into Grow Jackson’s mission to, “End food insecurity and hunger for Jackson residents by increasing the availability of fresh food and produce through food reclamation, community gardens, and improving infrastructure for produce access”. Yes, I did use their mission statement right there. And the more you discover about them, you’ll realize they really do stand by that statement. They dedicate themselves to this mission by improving access to fresh food and by helping Jacksonians learn about their own food system.
Grow Jackson also rescues food, which means that they work with community partners to pick up fruits and vegetables that they would normally have to throw away, then rescues it in a process called food reclamation. I had to look up exactly what food reclamation was, so I figured I’d share what I found with all of you as well. Food Reclamation is basically where you take overstocked food items, or food items that are still edible and stocked, but are about to be cycled out so newer food can use the shelf space and distribute that still usable food to those that need it. Grow Jackson, obviously distributes it to the Jackson community, especially to those that may have more restricted access to produce. According to Grow Jackson’s website, this reclaimed food mainly goes to food banks and pantries that are already serving areas with food insecure populations. By doing this, the diets and diet options of those using the food banks and pantries expands, and so does the opportunity for the food banks and pantries to improve the food they offer the Jackson area. Currently, Grow Jackson is looking for organizations already working in community aid and food distribution to supplement them some produce bags. Also, they are looking for applicants to be a partner pantry too!
In the spring of 2021, the “Grow Jackson Community Garden Network” was started. They were able to partner with the City of Jackson as well as several other local corporate businesses, and some private investors as well. This allowed for community neighborhood gardens to start being planted in the city, which gave local neighborhoods access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they could help grow themselves. On top of the community gardens, there are also plans to introduce a community greenhouse too! Their website did not mention where the greenhouse may go, but the gardens you can find in currently unused city lots, spaces donated by other organizations, and in area parks and public spaces. The gardens will help the local community, as well as provide fresh produce for the food distribution program, and will be available at the Farmer’s Market in Jackson. Also, it will help source food for “Fresh Food Friday” too! The community garden program helps engage people of all ages and all backgrounds in gardening education, food justice conversations, and in food access initiatives. Basically, it’s a fun and hands on learning experience for everyone!
Grow Jackson is trying to combat the crisis of food insecurity, which is a public health problem that impacts the world. This organization is working to lessen that gap in Jackson County in particular, especially those in marginalized communities since they feel the effects of it the most. These marginalized communities could be caused due to race, socioeconomic position, or even a combination of the two. You may be wondering how they’re able to get all this done. Well, there are two ways, through donations, and through volunteers. I’ll focus on the volunteering aspect first.
MLL’s own Chris Cook was able to meet with Jacob Inosenicio, the President and founder of Grow Jackson. Chris said Jacob was extremely passionate about this organization, about making a difference in the Jackson community, and was just an overall great person. Jacob even gave Chris a tour of one of the community gardens (they’re quite large, it really is an impressive operation). Jacob told him that they rely on the local community to help with cultivation, planting, prepping, distributing, and well, really all aspects of the organization. Local companies pitch in, local schools pitch in, the local YMCA volunteers, and of course, random people like you and I that just want to help. Grow Jackson has created a connected community of volunteers and can always use them. If you’re interested, you can check out this link. If you’re really feeling like helping, you can also sponsor a community garden or donate to a specific campaign. Their Instagram and Facebook pages are also great ways to learn about their upcoming big events!
Next up, let’s talk about donating to Grow Jackson. Yes, yes, I did create a hyperlink directly to their donation page, just in case you wanted to easily contribute to their cause. Their donation page is also very open, honest, and gives a very transparent look at why you should give, how you can give, and how the donation will be used. For example, you can donate via an online payment that goes directly to Grow Jackson, or if you’re not comfortable with that, you can also mail a check to Grow Jackson’s office at 740 W. Michigan Ave, Jackson, MI 49201. If you’re wondering how the donation will be used, their website has you covered! The donated funds will be used to maintain the community gardening program and the food rescue program. They are also currently raising funds for an upgraded vehicle for the next growing season, to buy a building so they can have a permanent location. The permanent location will also help to expand their food production capacity. Donations also help fund their staffing and programming expenses.
Grow Jackson is one of those organizations that we seek out to raise money for. They are local, small but mighty, and can really make any size donation go a long way. They are a real, “grass roots” organization that has taken hold and has a fantastic mission based on community education and the elimination of food insecurity in Jackson County. Jacob is also a great person, and his drive and passion gave him the ability to start and grow this operation from the ground up. If you would like to see more of what this group is all about, I would encourage you to volunteer and check out their website. If you’re nervous about volunteering, check out one of Jacob’s interviews on JTV (most recent interview linked, but there’s quite a few of them) to see what the organization and its members are all about. They also have a great blog called “Food for Thought” (we see what you did there) that has some great content too! To make it easier to check them out and/or donate, I’ve added the links below!
Links to Grow Jackson:
Donation Link: https://growjackson.org/donate/
Volunteering Link: https://growjackson.org/volunteer/
Address: 740 W. Michigan Ave Jackson, MI 49201 USA