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IICF Week of Giving: Edible Landscaping in Arizona

Pic Darren little girls planting (2).jpg
Darren Chapman, CEO, TigerMountain Foundation, has some young helpers to plant seeds.

How TigerMountain Foundation and IICF work together to support those in need.

As we celebrate the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Week of Giving, it’s important to shine a light on the disadvantaged members of our communities. Nationwide, we continue to struggle with empowering socially and economically disadvantaged people. To tackle this problem in Arizona, the TigerMountain Foundation (TMF) was founded in 2007.

Our vision is to act as a change agent for improving wellness and building stronger, more active communities where all citizens can reach their maximum potential. Since our founding, we’ve employed a multi-faceted approach to empower these disadvantaged people.

We focus on workforce and economic development through agri-landscaping (completely edible landscaping) of farms and community gardens. Our process starts with a Personal Strategy Roadmap (PSR) provided by TMF to our participants. These roadmaps are designed to encourage an active lifestyle, incorporating nutritional benefits, outdoor environmental benefits for our planet and mental health benefits. We encourage habits that will continue to reduce the incidence of poor food choice accessibility and illnesses in our community.

The TMF agri-landscaping initiative works with developers, residents and commercial property owners to provide edible landscaping on their sites, educating them on the value of seed to table, growing and providing your own produce. Currently, we are transforming a blighted site in Tempe, Ariz. from a common gathering place for homeless and abused individuals into a beautiful and bountiful community garden. TMF works to develop relationships with the local community and introduces participants to potential mentors who use our PSR initiative to introduce them to resources to transform their lives.

TMF incorporates a diverse minority led community, including people of all races, genders, ages, BIPOC, intergenerational, multi-cultural ethnicities, veterans and LGBTQ+ populations.

Fifty percent of our participants are referred by probation and parole partnerships, schools and universities, along with local organizations involved in and around the justice system.

The support of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) has been instrumental in developing our program and supporting our community.

Food insecurity continues to be a significant issue nationwide and we certainly see the problem here in Arizona. According to Feeding America, one in every six kids may not know where they are going to get their next meal. In some of the poorest Phoenix zip codes where our gardens are located and the participants live, we frequently see food desert areas – areas more than a mile from fresh produce.

Not only do the fresh fruits and vegetables we grow in our farms/gardens alleviate food scarcity, but they also promote healthy living and well-being. Furthermore, TMF boosts our community by keeping our at-risk participants free of potential negative influences within their environment. Our workforce development initiatives provide opportunities that empower all participants, interns, and volunteers in the community with experiential learning sessions, education in entrepreneurship, mentorship, work ethics, financial literacy education, goal setting and budgeting assistance.

The support of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) has been instrumental in developing our program and supporting our community. Their funding has helped incentivize adult and youth participants, who have worked hours planting, growing and harvesting fresh, naturally grown fruits and vegetables. Participants shared in the harvest and the excess produce was delivered to local Farmers Markets or left for on-site composting in our efforts to maintain a sustainable environment.

During 2020, participants dedicated 4,200 hours and 1,569 volunteers worked almost 6,000 hours in both our gardens and agri-landscaping projects. We reached another 6,000 people spreading the word of our hard work through speaking engagements and 1,500 more at local farmers markets. Overall, we are proud to say that nearly 23,000 lives have been impacted with the 13,468 pounds of produce or 53,872 meals we generated from our agri-landscaping initiatives.

This Week of Giving, we hope you’ll join us and IICF in our support of the disadvantaged members of our community. To learn more, please visit https://tigermountainfoundation.org/non-profit-community-garden/ or @tigermountainfdn on Twitter.

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