San Diego Non-Profit Gives Gardens to Food Insecure Communities to Help Sustain their Food Sovereignty

By Colleen Leonardi

Healthy Day Partners in San Diego is dedicated to healthy lifestyles for students by improving school lunches, gardens and farms
Photo credit: Mim Michelove

Getting your hands in the dirt is good medicine during these times of self-isolation and social distancing. Connecting with the earth via a garden can be grounding.

Healthy Day Partners in San Diego, California figured that out early on when the Covid-19 crisis started. The non-profit is dedicated to healthy lifestyles for students by improving school lunches, gardens, and farms.

And with schools out of session, Healthy Day innovated a solution to deliver fresh food to families in need.

The Grab & Grow Gardens was started in partnership with Nan Sterman, known as the Waterwise Gardener. Their collective response to the pandemic was to share sprouted vegetables by delivering them to local charities for families to then grow. Both Sterman and Healthy Day saw the benefits of working together to provide access to healthy food for food insecure communities.

“Nan and I knew that we had to do something meaningful to help nourish families in need during this devastating pandemic,” said Mim Michelove, CEO and president of Healthy Day Partners. “We immediately put our gardening know-how and our dedication to education and service to work before we had time to create a budget. Thankfully, our local agricultural business community generously donated supplies, our friends donated money and volunteered, and SDG&E granted us funds to launch the Grab & Grow Gardens program as one of their Environmental Champions.”

When a family visits a hunger relief program in the San Diego area they can pick up a Grab & Grow Garden. The kit includes a selection of vegetable seedlings wrapped up and ready to go with instructions in both English and Spanish.

“The Grab & Grow Gardens program embodies Healthy Day’s food sovereignty work – promoting ecologically conscious food production, distribution, and consumption for everyone no matter their zip code or income level,” said Michelove. “By donating our garden kits to vital hunger relief programs throughout San Diego, we help the hardest hit families grow their own food, while we help grow a healthier food system that begins to tackle hunger and poverty in a way that promises long term, sustainable food security for everyone.” 

While the hunger relief programs in the San Diego area also provide meals and produce for families, the Grab & Grow Garden is a creative solution to what has become a long-term crisis for us all.

Parents and children can plant seeds together and watch them grow. And tending the tomatoes and harvesting basil can become an activity for kids at home during the summer.

Growing your own food is empowering, and the Grab & Grow Garden brings this sense of agency and choice to children and their families at a time when so much else seems uncertain.

“It is heartening to know that over the past two months, we have helped over 1,700 food insecure families grow gardens that give them lifelong skills, help create special family bonds,” said Michelove, “and provide ongoing access to healthy food”

Read more Beyond the Plate local food hero storiesLearn more about our partners, Niman Ranch at

Get more local stories at Edible San Diego.