COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Rural food pantries in central and northeast Missouri are working with the University of Missouri to promote wider access to healthy foods.

The university recently announced a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to work with eight pantries through the research effort known as Mizzou Advantage.

The Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security will be based in the school’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The Health Communication Research Center at the Missouri School of Journalism is also involved with the project.

Project coordinator Bill McKelvey says he hopes to encourage more people to start or expand gardens to grow their own food.

The St. James Caring Center and the Shelby County Food Pantry are the initial two pantry participants.

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