BALTIMORE — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbra A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $22,000 in funding from the Environmental Justice Small Grants Program to the Parks and People Foundation in Baltimore to help educate residents about safe ways to create urban gardens on vacant properties throughout the city.
“This investment in improving quality of life for Baltimoreans living near currently vacant lots will pay out-sized dividends. In addition to improving future employment opportunities for high school students, this grant will improve the economic, public and environmental health of Baltimore City residents,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Food deserts are a serious problem for too many in Baltimore. Converting vacant lots into community gardens is a solid step toward ensuring that more families can access fresh fruits and vegetables. I will continue to explore innovative opportunities for the federal government to continue to play an active role in helping the people of Baltimore.”
“As a social worker, I know the importance of access to quality nutrition to those who need it most,” Senator Mikulski said. “That’s why I’m for smart federal investments that reflect our American values of protecting our country and neighbor helping neighbor. These federal dollars will help get rid of food deserts in Baltimore and help bring healthy food right to where Baltimore families need it the most.”
The funding from EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program includes money that has already been spent to train 12 high school students how to collect soil samples from vacant lots that are designated for urban gardens for edible produce. The students will also set up workshops and conduct hands-on training to residents at various locations.
The project initiated by Parks and Produce aims to educate more than 2,000 city residents about the importance of soil and the preventive and precautionary measures of dealing with soil contaminants. Funding also will be used to set up four to six vacant lot demonstration sites to conduct hands-on training in strategies for building productive soil beds.
Furthermore, the Baltimore project seeks to mitigate the impacts of climate change by increasing the area of “green” spaces that will help reduce stormwater runoff.
Senator Cardin has been a leader in the Senate highlighting the advantages of the farm-to-table movement.
For more information on EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants, visit: https://www3.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/grants/ej-smgrants.html.