“Everyone deserves the right to have fresh, healthy food,” said Gina Patrick, an employee of Appalachian Sustainable Development, an organization who was awarded a $4,500 ELCA Domestic Hunger Grant for their Healthy Families – Family Farms Initiative.
Gina’s belief is exactly why the ELCA works to help feed people in our country and around the world. Through the ELCA Domestic Hunger Grant Program organizations who are feeding people in their communities are empowered to do more.
Appalachian Sustainable Development, a nonprofit that operates out of Abingdon, was just one of the 11 different organizations all over the Virginia Synod who received one of these grants.
The Healthy Families – Healthy Farms (HFFF) initiative buys “seconds”of fruits and vegetables from local farmers and donates the fresh food to Feeding America Southwest Virginia who is then able to distribute the food to 11 different counties.
“It helps the farmers as well which is a win-win,” said Gina.
The “seconds” are bought at a greatly reduced price so that the farmers are able to break even. Many of the local farmers sell their produce to larger companies and the food has to be almost aesthetically flawless. If there are any bumps or bruises the perfectly good food won’t be accepted. This food may otherwise go uneaten and farmers would lose money.
“We distributed 129,000 pounds of produce last year,” Gina said. “The USDA says that a serving of vegetables is 4 ounces which means that we were able to provide over a million servings.”
Healthy Families – Family Farms was able to apply for the ELCA grant because of their ties with St. John Lutheran Church in Abingdon. Charlie Garnett is an active member of St. John and has also served on the HFFF committee for the past 3 years.
“One of the reasons that I was attracted to the Lutheran denomination was that they take a proactive stance on social issues,” Charlie said. “Our church likes to be involved and I see the ELCA setting the tone for being active in the community.”
Charlie mentioned that HFFF not only helps to provide fresh produce to the communities in Southwest Virginia but they also want to help people grow their own vegetables through their Garden Box Project.
“The garden boxes are about four feet long and 2 feet wide and they are on raised legs which is good for the elderly who can’t bend down and work in the ground,” Charlie said.
HFFF links the person that receives the garden box with a community volunteer, almost like a gardening mentor. With this small area, you may be surprised at how much these boxes can produce.
“One lady said she got about 70 bell peppers from her garden box,” Gina said.
The organization also has events to help educate people about how to cook and prepare healthy, fresh meals.
“It has been amazing to see how much they actually do for the community,” Charlie said. “I am glad to be a part of something that does this much for people who can’t normally access fresh produce.”
Now, because of the ELCA domestic hunger grant, we get to be a part of this amazing effort as well.