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Health and nutrition grants help ministries bring fresh produce into ‘food deserts’

April 13, 2011

wenty-eight Jubilee Ministries received $750 Health-and-Nutrition grants this winter to fund projects ranging from expanding community gardens to stocking food pantries to staging a health and nutrition fair.


The grants, totaling $21,000, are intended to help ministries address the nutritional challenges facing poor people who live in “food deserts,” those areas where no full-service grocery stores operate and residents must travel long distances to obtain fresh produce or else try to find healthy choices on convenience store shelves.


Here’s a look at how the grant-winning Jubilee Ministries will put these small grants to use this year:


The Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston, Maine (Diocese of Maine) is located in the midst of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the entire state. Two-thirds of the residents live on a household income of less than $15,000 a year. The center helps hungry neighbors by serving four hot meals a week and opening a food pantry once a week. The grant will help them continue to provide food to an ever-growing clientele.


ICM Food and Clothing Bank (formerly Interfaith Cooperative Ministries) in Phoenix (Diocese of Arizona) has seen its client numbers grow by 70 percent from a year ago. As a result, the 100 clients the center serves every day must wait in longer lines, volunteers grow weary, and staples such as milk and produce run out before everyone can be served. With this grant, the center will buy nearly a thousand pounds of locally-grown fruits and vegetables to supplement the non-perishables it distributes each day.


Cedar Valley Episcopal Campus Ministry/East Waterloo Ministry (Diocese of Iowa) has been involved in serving a monthly meal at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Waterloo for more than a year. It’s a way of helping University of Northern Iowa students in Cedar Falls learn about urban poverty and see the many faces of racism still rampant. The free meal creates neighborhood relationships, and at each meal there are activities for children and speakers to discuss parenting topics with the adults. The neighborhood has no grocery stores save one convenience store, and many families do not own cars. The grant will be used to ensure that at least one fresh vegetable will be available at every meal, and that fresh fruit will be available for diners to take home with them.


Crossroads of Michigan (Diocese of Michigan) recently launched a summer lunch program to serve children living near its Detroit main office. The programs provides a healthy and substantial lunch five days a week to school-age children who normally rely on school lunches to avoid hunger. Last summer, the ministry served more than 2,500 lunches to children. The grant will help it continue the program.


Jubilee Park & Community Center (Diocese of Dallas) sponsors a produce stand to increase the availability of fresh produce in the Dallas neighborhood, which lacks a convenient grocery store. Each week, women in the community set up and manage the stand, and handle decisions about what to order, marketing, packaging and promotion. A Jubilee staff member, Community Outreach Director Rachel Gonzales, works with them. Each week, 50-75 shoppers come to the stand. The grant would supplement Gonzales’ salary.


St. Michael and All Angels Church in Adelphi, Md. (Diocese of Washington) has run a soup kitchen since 2005, serving monthly meals and distributing groceries to the needy of the neighborhood, which is a food desert. While the ministry has sufficient funds to buy food, it desperately needs a deep freezer and a microwave, and also lacks a suitable refrigerator, stove and storage area. The grant will assist in a kitchen restoration project.


Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland (Diocese of Ohio) has been providing a hot meal each Sunday to the homeless in the neighborhood for 26 years. In an area lacking grocery stores, Trinity’s program remains the only one in downtown Cleveland to offer walk-ins – an average of 100 people a week – a hot meal on Sundays. Much of the food served comes from Trinity’s Community Garden, a three-acre urban farm run by volunteers who have worked to reclaim a once-destitute and abandoned area in Cleveland’s impoverished Central Neighborhood. Last season, the garden produced more than 3,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables. The grant will help fund both the lunch program and the garden.


Since Our Savior Episcopal Church in Dallas (Diocese of Dallas) launched its community garden in 2003, it has grown and donated more than 14 tons of fresh organic vegetables to area food pantries and neighbors in need. And that doesn’t include what the gardening families grow for their own tables. The grant will help provide tools, seeds, water and organic soil amendments, as well as allowing for the expansion of tillable land. It will also help the ministry to teach more families have to grow their own gardens.


The Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia (Diocese of Pennsylvania) runs a soup kitchen that feeds 150 to 200 people each weekday. What started in 1981 as a soup and sandwich has grown to become a full meal. Last year, more than 50,000 meals were served, and the grant will be used to defray expenses.


Episcopal Community Services in Minneapolis (Diocese of Minnesota) last year coordinated the Rivertown Commons Resident Council Backyard Harvest Garden as a means of creating community among a diverse population of low-income residents. Participants learned about local food sources, about cooking, and worked as a neighborhood to till and nurture their garden. This coming summer, the Resident Council wants to expand the garden by making a handicapped-accessible raised garden for seniors and others with physical limitations. ECS will partner with a local job training group and garden center to design and build a waist-level garden and buy easy-to-use gardening tools. These funds will cover construction and equipment costs.


The Frannie Millward Community Garden at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Berea, Ohio (Diocese of Ohio) last summer turned an alley into a garden to provide produce to this Cleveland suburb’s poor and elderly population. Though the garden didn’t go in until July 25, gardeners still managed to harvest more than 200 pounds of vegetables, all of which were given to the needy. A daycare associated with the church also planted two beds to use to teach children about gardening and sharing with those in need. The grant will be used to expand from 14 to 20 the number of beds, and to devise an irrigation system to collect run-off water.


St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland (Diocese of Ohio) offers a variety of food programs for its neighborhood, which has little access to groceries. St. Luke’s Family Night feeds 120 people every Wednesday, many of them children. The church also runs a free Farmer’s Market two Mondays a month during growing season. The market, with support from the Cleveland Food Bank, gives away more than 30,000 pounds of food annually. The church recently obtained an additional building in hopes of running the Farmer’s Market through more of the year.


Grace Episcopal Church, Woodlawn in Birmingham (Diocese of Alabama) hopes to include a monthly fresh produce component to its food pantry ministry. The church is located in the Woodlawn section of Birmingham, one of the most impoverished in the city. Studies show that more than a third of the city’s residents live in areas where they don’t have access to healthy foods. The grant money will be used to buy as much fresh produce as possible to supplement non-perishables.


Christ Church in New Brunswick, N.J. (Diocese of New Jersey) distributes food to an average of 2,500 people each month from its food pantry. The church presently has three freezers and one refrigerator in which to store cold or fresh foods between distributions, but needs another refrigerator to store fresh foods, eggs and cheeses. The grant will go to purchase that refrigerator.


Church of St. Andrew in Camden, N.J. (Diocese of New Jersey) has plans to host a health and nutrition fair for the community. Funds from this grant will purchase fresh fruits and vegetable for the fair.


The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has always been an economically depressed area, and  Drummond Island – relying mostly on tourism for economic support – has been particularly hard-hit during this recession. Drummond Island Community Food Bank (Diocese of Northern Michigan) focuses on supplying food to the island’s residents, and this grant will help with the purchase of groceries.


The Reading Camp program at Mission House, run by the Diocese of Lexington, serves children from the Kentucky’s city’s most impoverished area. The community is plagued by food insecurity and non-availability of fresh produce. This summer, the reading camp will partner with SeedLeaf, an organization that operates many community gardens, to teach campers and their families how to grow their own food. The afternoon and evening gardening activities will be in addition to the camp’s literacy component.


Church of the Ascension in Norfolk, Va. (Diocese of Southern Virginia) has had a garden for two years now, and the crop helps supplement the offerings at the church food pantry, which is open three days a week, 51 weeks a year. Volunteers from the congregation and a local Cub Scout troop provide the manpower for the garden.


Metropolitan Ministries (MetMin) in Chattanooga is in the heart of the police precinct known as “Tiger Sector,” which has the highest homicide rate in southeast Tennessee. It is at the center of the city’s urban food desert. This grant will be used to establish food gardens on the grounds of the MetMin property, which is held in perpetual trust to the Diocese of East Tennessee. The work of installing these gardens will be done by MetMin clients and volunteers, and the resulting fresh produce will be available to all MetMin clients.


The Hosanna Community, a residential community for disabled adults in Hixson, Tenn., (Diocese of East Tennessee) wants funds to build a large raised garden in which to educate residents about growing food and environmental sustainability. Volunteers and residents will supply the manpower, but the ministry needs help buying landscape timbers, top soil, hardware and seeds and plants. As an added benefit, residents will get fresh air and exercise while working in the garden. Hosanna hopes the garden will provide better nutrition, socialization and education.


St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ashtabula, Ohio (Diocese of Ohio) runs a music ministry for children called Great Music Without Barriers. One program within that ministry brings children from families who live in poverty to the church after school Monday through Thursday for enrichment activities. At present, 99 children take part in the program, and many of them have their last meal of the day during their school lunch period. This grant will help the church to provide the children with healthy snacks, and meals when they visit St. Peter’s for a concert or workshop.


Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, a ministry of St. Thomas Episcopal church in Taunton, Mass., (Diocese of Massachusetts) serves over 150 hot lunches every weekday. Founded more than 25 years ago, it is the only soup kitchen in Taunton, and many of the guests are families with children. Funds will be used to purchase quality foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables.


Episcopal Housing Corp., and its sponsoring congregation, Church of the Guardian Angel in Baltimore, Md. (Diocese of Maryland), have a robust food and food education program to address nutritional needs in the city’s Remington community. Thanks to a partnership with a local CSA, residents can have free produce that is not distributed to the CSA’s members. This grant will help the ministry to distribute fresh vegetables during the five months when the CSA is not active in Remington. The funds will also supplement the food served at two weekly community meals.


Galveston, Texas, still recovering from Hurricane Ike, continues to struggle with increased demand for food in the underserved areas. St. Vincent’s House, (Diocese of Texas) helps to meet that need. In 2009, it served more than 5,800 clients from its Loaves and Fishes food pantry. By the end of September, 2010, it had already served nearly 4,200.


Parish El Divino Salvador in Bogota, Colombia (Iglesia Episcopal en Colombia) provides a nutritious lunch to 40 poor schoolchildren, Monday through Friday, in addition to providing them with English classes enrichment activities.


St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Harvey, Ill., (Diocese of Chicago) is in the middle of a food desert. A grant helped the church’s food pantry to include fresh fruit and vegetables in its weekly food distributions, but that grant will not be renewed in 2011. To make matters worse, the garden the church sponsored on a vacant lot next door lost its chief volunteer when the Master Gardener who founded and maintained it moved after the 2009 growing season. An experiment to turn the garden over to individual community members and clients of the pantry failed in 2010. This grant will enable the ministry to hire an experienced gardener who can plan the 2011 season and recruit and oversee community service workers to plant and maintain it.


Messiah Development Center Inc. and its sponsoring church Messiah-St. Bartholomew  in Chicago last summer partnered with Faith in Place and Greencorps Chicago to operate its first community garden. The center hired and trained five young adults during the summer to run the garden. Most of the food grown was donated to the center’s Food Pantry. A portion was given to young people to take home to their families. This grant will be used to buy garden hoses and gas for transportation to get the young volunteers to the garden this year.


All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center in New Orleans (Diocese of Louisiana) is housed in a former Walgreen’s drug store facility in the Lower Ninth Ward, a community that knew little about the Episcopal Church before Hurricane Katrina. The church offers an after-school tutoring program for 20-25 students two evenings a week, plus a string music program for children on Saturdays. Meals and snacks for provided for the children, most of whom come from poor, single-parent families. There are no sizable supermarkets in the neighborhood and few places that sell fresh produce. All Souls has already begun to address the nutritional needs of the community, including hosting a weekly farmer’s market, planting and maintaining a small garden where children can grow food, and creating a food pantry. It aspires to establish the All Souls Nutritional Center, to include an expanded garden, programming for young people in nutrition, cooking and business.


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