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Shape Up Mississippi receives International Paper Foundation grant

Shape Up Mississippi has been awarded a $5,000 grant from International Paper’s Vicksburg Mill and the International Paper Foundation.

Jami Cameron, communications coordinator for International Paper Vicksburg, said the funds from IP’s Planting Hope Initiative will provide residents with access and availability to fresh and healthy foods, fitness activities and culinary programs to teach proper nutrition.

The Planting Hope goals are to continue distributing local foods to food pantries, increase U-pick days and extend the Vicksburg Community Garden’s reach to residents in need.

Shape Up Mississippi founder Linda Fondren said she was excited about the opportunities the grant makes available.

“The Vicksburg Community Garden Park is a valuable resource for the surrounding community, especially to promote exercise during the pandemic,” Fondren said. “We want to ensure that residents know it is available.”

Fondren said new signs showing access to the walking trail at the Vicksburg Community Garden Park will be built and a sensory interpretive trail on the paved walking trail, including planting 20 native plants purchased locally, will be established.

Benches will provide a place for visitors to rest and admire the park and there are ways the garden can be used as an outdoor classroom.

“Our garden is inside a locked fence,” Fondren said.We can now build an interactive space with three raised beds outside the fence so visitors can access the raised beds at any time and learn about plants and herbs.” 

The grant will also pay for installing paving stones and the purchase of garden tools.

“The support of International Paper also allows us to generate community attention and increase our reach for volunteers at the VCG,” Fondren said. “With the USDA/EPA’s Local Food Local Places technical assistance, we hope to create a sustainable plan to incorporate the VCG with the Vicksburg Farmer’s Market and the Catfish Row Museum’s demonstration kitchen and marketplace to create a food hub in our historic downtown.”

“We are so appreciative and excited to receive this grant from International Paper and to work with residents and IP volunteers to grow a more sustainable community,” Fondren said. “I can’t wait to sit down and discuss the volunteer opportunities you have so my team members can get involved. This program sounds amazing.”

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