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The Gene Garden Project hopes to solve food insecurity in Davenport

The non-profit received grant money from United Way’s United for Equity fund.
CEO Ashly Jackson waters seedlings for The Gene Garden Project in Davenport, Iowa.
CEO Ashly Jackson waters seedlings for The Gene Garden Project in Davenport, Iowa.(KWQC TV6 News)
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 1:04 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Sowing seeds to make a difference in the community. That is what Ashly Jackson, CEO of The Gene Garden Project, has dedicated her life to.

“Honestly, my background is hair. I worked at Aveda Salon in Davenport and then all of a sudden covid happened and I’m just sitting there like, okay I love doing hair, it was my passion at one time but I just want to help the community more.”

The Gene Garden Project was born and officially founded on September 3, 2020.

According to the non-profit’s Facebook page, “The Gene Garden Project hopes to attain a source of food equality within the QCA. It works towards this goal through the creation of community garden spaces.”

In February 2021, The United Way announced 25 local organizations would be awarded $275,000 in grants as part of the United for Equity fund to “help reduce and prevent racial inequities in education, income and health.” The Gene Garden Project received $2,500.

“So we’re using the money for first of all, for getting our garden started on the inside. Because with this good old Iowa weather, it’s just doing whatever it wants to do. So we have in-house gardens, the soil, and seeds. So that’s what we used at least half of it.”

The Gene Garden Project is currently based out of the old Lincoln Elementary School building on 8th and Pershing in Davenport. “We actually have three greenhouses and a whole bunch of class tables filled with trays with sprouting seeds,” says Jackson, “From collard greens to green beans, turnips, anything you can pretty much name tomatoes. We’re growing it.” Once the weather warms up, Jackson will take the seedlings to community garden spaces throughout the 3rd and 5th Wards in Davenport.

“With the majority of our ethnic culture, they’re in poverty, and so we decided to put our community gardens in those cultures. Which is like the 3rd ward, the 5th ward, those are the poorest areas. Also, there used to be a Save a Lot on 4th street and now it’s gone so there’s really no grocery store there at all to help anyone get anything. So us putting those gardens in there and helping those races and those ethnicities, they’re going to help uplift those communities.”

Jackson says one of the community garden plots will be at the Juvenile Detention Center in Davenport. The gardens will be free to the public, anyone can come and pick fruits and vegetables to take home.

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