Aug 17, 2021

Lowell non-profit receives 10 years of funding from the Cummings Foundation

[LOWELL, MA] – Mill City Grows (MCG) is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program. The Lowell-based organization was chosen from a total of 590 applicants during a competitive review process. It will receive $400,000 over 10 years. 

Mill City Grows is a food justice organization that operates community and school gardens, urban farms, a mobile market and CSA program, and food and gardening education programs throughout Lowell. In 2020, Mill City Grows grew over 40,000 pounds of food and distributed produce at no cost to families experiencing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This grant will be instrumental in helping us improve Lowell’s food system for everyone,” said Jessica Wilson, Executive Director of Mill City Grows.“Through the next 10 years, we will develop and deliver new, responsive programming to meet the food needs of our community, empower Lowell residents to help build this system, and increase the amount of fresh, local food going to families in need in our City.”

Funds from the Cummings $25 Million Grant Program will be used to support and expand MCG’s food justice programs. Specifically, MCG is working with local partners to conduct a Community Food Assessment to identify gaps in the local food system. Utilizing community feedback from this study, MCG will make plans to guide their program development over the next 10 years to address food insecurity and inequities in access to fresh, culturally connected food for all residents of Lowell. 

The Cummings $25 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. 

Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. This Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation. 

“We aim to help meet the needs of people in all segments of our local community,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s executive director. “It is the incredible organizations we fund, however, that do the actual daily work to empower our neighbors, educate our children, fight for equity, and so much more.” 

With the help of about 80 volunteers, the Foundation first identified 140 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners were first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that had previously received Cummings Foundation grants. Forty of this latter group of repeat recipients were then selected to have their grants elevated to 10-year awards ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 each. 

“We have adopted a democratic approach to philanthropy, which empowers an impressive roster of dedicated volunteers to decide more than half of all our grant winners each year,” said Swets. “We benefit from their diverse backgrounds and perspectives; they benefit from a meaningful and fulfilling experience; and the nonprofits often benefit from increased exposure and new advocates.” 

This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including social justice, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 43 different cities and towns. The following Lowell-based organizations received $100,000 grants from the Cummings Foundation: Community Teamwork, Inc., Merrimack Valley Food Bank, and Middlesex Community College Foundation. Mill City Grows is the only Lowell-based organization to receive a 10-year grant. 

The complete list of 140 grant winners, plus more than 800 previous recipients, is available at CummingsFoundation.orgCummings Foundation has now awarded more than $300 million to greater Boston nonprofits. 


About Mill City Grows

Since 2011, Mill City Grows (MCG) has worked towards food justice in Lowell, Massachusetts, using the following strategies and programs: education in and out of schools, supporting community leadership through community gardens, increasing urban agriculture through urban farming, implementing a mobile market, and empowering people to produce their own food. MCG infuses food production spaces with food education to support their belief that a community that understands how to grow, access, and prepare healthy food will have better quality of life and deeper investment in their local environment. Visit to learn more, and follow MCG on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the three largest private foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn, and Veterinary Medicine at Tufts, LLC in North Grafton. Additional information is available at


Katherine Davis, Mill City Grows Director of Development

Alison Harding, Cummings Foundation

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Lowell-based non-profit Mill City Grows (MCG) will host its Annual Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 18, from 10am to 2pm, at UMass Lowell’s Rist Urban Agriculture Greenhouse & Farm at 69 Pawtucket Street. Free parking is available on site at UMass Lowell’s East Campus Garage. An abundant variety of Lowell-grown herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruit plants will be available for purchase at this free, public event. Attendees will also enjoy a Farmers Market showcasing local guest vendors Craic Sauce, F-Word Farm, The Merrimack Company, and Fat Moon Mushrooms, plus the Mill City Grows Mobile Market will be selling fresh, seasonal produce! All proceeds from the event will benefit Mill City Grows programs that expand healthy food access and offer educational opportunities for Lowell residents. Event updates are available at, on the Plant Sale Facebook Event, and by calling 978-455-2620.

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