WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–This year, the West Liberty Dream Catchers’ community garden has flourished, thanks to a League of United Latin American Citizens Ford Driving Dreams Grant. With the $2,000 they received, Dream Catchers expanded the size of their garden, allowing them to bring fresh vegetables to area food pantries and to begin community education efforts for how to make home cooked meals from in season produce.
In the past, Dream Catchers, an organization that provides mentoring to students working to become the first in their family to attend college, utilized grants from LULAC of West Liberty to fund their STEM programming. When they learned they could apply for money for projects mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in the community, they knew they wanted to further develop their community garden program. Started about three years ago, the group realized their garden had the potential to help meet the needs of many more people. “With COVID, we wanted to look at the possibility of growing our own food and eating healthy,” said Dream Catchers Co-Founder Ed Moreno.
Renaming their garden Victory Garden 2020, members of Dream Catchers, along with area master gardeners, planted a wide variety of vegetables. As they become ripe, they deliver them to area food pantries, allowing them to have fresh produce as well as non-perishable items. So far, they have donated much of their produce to the Salvation Army of Muscatine County, strengthening their relationship with that organization. “There are lots of partnerships that have grown out of this,” Moreno shared.
Along with bringing produce to food pantries, Dream Catchers has started an educational series to help people learn to prepare fresh vegetables into healthy and delicious meals. With the help of two chefs, including Domenique Garcia of Mamma Knows Grub, based in Fort Madison, Dream Catchers has begun filming cooking segments and posting their final videos to their own YouTube channel. Garcia elaborated: “I’m working with Diego, one of the Dreamers, to make easy cooking videos. We’re finding recipes to utilize what’s coming out of the garden.”
As a professional chef who enjoys re-imagining classic dishes to incorporate more plant based ingredients, Garcia enjoys helping the Dream Catchers with their Victory Garden 2020 project immensely. “It’s a passion project of mine,” she stated.