Food and faith

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by Ben Lilliston | May 6, 2009 • The push for greater access to healthy, locally produced food in the United States continues to get stronger. Today, we released a new report highlighting the role of 11 faith communities around the country that are expanding access to healthy, local foods. Faith communities have the resources and volunteer power to make things happen, and it shows throughout these examples of farmers markets, food pantries, healthy eating programs, community gardens and cooking classes.

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

“Faith communities are important supporters of healthy eating because of their strong presence in neighborhoods and their commitment to the well-being of community members,” said JoAnne Berkenkamp, director of IATP’s Local Foods program, in our press release. “It is our hope that faith members across the country will be inspired by these stories and take action in their own places of worship.”

The short rundown of the case studies:

• St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bolivar, Mo., manages three gardens and three orchards from which they harvest and provide both fresh and preserved fruits and vegetables for anyone who wants them.
• Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale, Minn., manages a volunteer-based community garden that provides fruits and vegetables for local food shelves.
• Taqwa Eco-Food, a food cooperative in Chicago, Ill., works to meet the needs of people wanting to purchase local meats raised and processed within the principles of Islam.
• Central Baptist Church and Bethlehem Baptist Church of Columbia, S.C., runs the “Dash of Faith” cooking program to help church cooks prepare healthier foods.
• Sixteen Interfaith Communities in Eugene, Ore., connect urban residents with local farmers and community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms in which residents purchase shares and receive deliveries of harvested fruits and vegetables.
• St. Paul Jewish Community Center in St. Paul, Minn., arranges for members to purchase shares in a local CSA farm that uses farming practices based on Jewish beliefs.
• Plymouth Congregational Church and Stevens Square Community Organization of Minneapolis, Minn., operate a community garden, food shelf and farmers market at the church.
• Central Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Paul, Minn., provides a weekly healthy community lunch program for members and the surrounding community.
• Upper Sand Mountain Parish of northeastern Alabama operates a food pantry, community and church gardens, cannery and healthy eating education program.
• Body and Soul healthy eating program throughout the U.S. helps African-American congregations improve members’ eating habits.
• The Hindu Temple of Minnesota in Maple Grove, Minn., organizes a weekend healthy lunch program for both members and non-members.

Find more details in our full report. We’ve only scratched the surface of what is happening in faith communities with regard to expanding access to healthy food. We’ve set up a place on our Web site where others can add what is happening in their faith community.

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