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The Drew Lewis Foundation, housed at The Fairbanks, 1126 N. Broadway Ave., is the lone Ozarks recipient of a Missouri Department of Agriculture grant.
SBJ file photo
The Drew Lewis Foundation, housed at The Fairbanks, 1126 N. Broadway Ave., is the lone Ozarks recipient of a Missouri Department of Agriculture grant.

Ag grant issued to Drew Lewis Foundation

Posted online

A Springfield nonprofit was the lone southwest Missouri recipient of a grant round aimed at addressing food insecurity in the state.

The Drew Lewis Foundation Inc. received a $25,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture that will be utilized to construct a wash and pack shed for produce grown at The Fairbanks, 1126 N. Broadway Ave. The foundation is housed in The Fairbanks, a 1906-built building that was an elementary school for more than a century and now serves, in part, as a community center in north Springfield.

Amy Blansit, founder and board chair of the foundation, said the pack shed would allow for better storage of produce and reduce waste. The foundation partnered on the project with fellow nonprofit Springfield Community Gardens, which will match the $25,000 grant, she added.

Blansit estimates the shed will cost less than $50,000 to build, but it currently has an undetermined construction price and size. Adam Millsap and his wife Melissa Young-Millsap, owners of Urban Roots Farm LLC, are being consulted on the project, she said.

“They are helping us design the shed that will be on-site for our specific needs,” Blansit said, adding plans will be in progress for roughly the next month before being submitted to the city for approval.

Construction for the shed is slated for early spring, Blansit said, and must be finished by May 1 for reimbursement under the grant criteria.

Blansit applied for the grant around a month ago after finding out about it in November.

“It was a really fast process,” she said.

The Fairbanks currently has been using an outdoor stainless steel sink and hose to clean produce grown on-site, Blansit said. Aside from the storage component, she said the pack shed would provide educational opportunities for best practices, quality control and meeting health guidelines. 

“The biggest thing is the time that it saves, the better practices it creates and being able to have a really good system in place,” she said.

Statewide funding totaled $200,000 through the Food Desert Agriculture Matching Grant Program. It funds projects throughout the state that address food insecurity within food deserts in rural and urban areas.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 37 million Americans live in food deserts. In urban areas, individuals are considered to be living in a food desert if they must travel more than a mile to buy affordable, healthy food. In rural areas, it is considered a food desert if access is 10 miles away.

Blansit, who owns The Fairbanks, started the Drew Lewis Foundation after her husband Drew died of cancer in 2013, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Through her work at the foundation, she also serves as director of the Northwest Project, an organization dedicated to assisting Springfieldians living in poverty.


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