Central College received a $25,000 Small Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) grant from The Wellmark Foundation to expand its sustainability education program. The grant is awarded to projects demonstrating a commitment to long-term sustainability through one of two goals: increased access to and consumption of nutritious foods or the promotion of safe and healthy environments that encourage physical activity. The grant will assist with the renovation of space for a garden classroom and kitchen, an extension of the college’s community garden.
The Wellmark Foundation grant will supplement funds already raised for the project, including a generous $50,000 leadership gift from Michael ’89 and Amy Dietrich Eilers ’88.
Aimed at furthering sustainability education, the renovated building will feature amenities to serve the campus and the community, including an ADA accessible bathroom, a full kitchen, and flexible space for classes, events and meals. The new space will enable more programs that focus on growing, processing, preserving and preparing healthy foods.
Starting off as a few small garden beds, Central’s garden was founded in 2000 and is now over half an acre. A landmark to Central’s sustainability efforts, the garden is also an asset to the community. School groups from Pella and Des Moines visit the garden for field trips, and the space is home to a “Fun with Food” kids’ summer camp. The garden produces over 1,500 pounds of produce annually, plus honey from the college bee hives. The bulk of the harvest goes to the college’s dining hall, and more than 10 percent is donated to the Pella Food Shelf.
Brian Campbell, director of sustainability education, said the garden is an important part of Central’s focus on sustainability. “When thinking about food, we look at how it can be part of students’ learning experience,” he said. “Food is integrated into many aspects of sustainability, and the enhanced work space at the garden will allow us to offer even more educational opportunities for students and the community.”
The Wellmark Foundation works to fund initiatives with a positive impact on the communities of both South Dakota and Iowa. The Small MATCH grant, which challenges the grantee to match 50 percent of the awarded grant through independent funding, is awarded to organizations that employ community-based approaches. Central hopes to complete renovation of the classroom building by July 2018, in time for summer camps.
People interested in supporting or learning more about the garden classroom may contact Michelle Wilkie, major gifts officer, at email@example.com.