An urban renewal project in downtown Stevens Point will be given a boost by a new federal grant. Money from the health care reform law will help turn a downtown eyesore into a community greenhouse.
The $160,000 for The Greenhouse Project is one of 30 Transform Wisconsin grants appropriated through the Affordable Care Act. At a news conference on the Stoney Acres Farm in rural Athens, farm owner Tony Schultz extolled the health benefits of locally produced food. "In the face of food scares, pink slime, and increasingly processed, edible food like substances, local food to me is the most accountable food," he says.
Locally produced food is the mission of the Stevens Point greenhouse, according to Layne Cozzolino, executive director of the Central Rivers Farmshed, the group that is building it. "We no longer are connected to our farmers," she says. "We don't know where our food comes from. We don't know what type of food we're eating. We could be eating a hamburger from a thousand different cows."
A total of 6.6 million dollars in Affordable Care Act grants are coming to Wisconsin, each of them with the goal of improving public health. The Central Rivers Farmshed grant will turn an abandoned Stevens Point garden center into a 36,000 square foot food production facility. Cozzolino says the new community greenhouse will bring local residents closer to the food they eat. "From soil building, to growing the food on site, to harvesting, processing and then, for the food waste, kind of finishing up the cycle, going back to the soil," she says. "Community members can come and learn and understand their food system."
Cozzolino hopes the Stevens Point greenhouse will eventually generate enough money to become self-sustaining.