Greening the Food Desert
Resurrection House Baptist Church is in a Southside Chicago neighborhood that has no grocery store, no farmer's market, and no fresh produce. In fact, some 600-thousand people in Chicago, as in many inner cities, find only junk food and soft drinks at a few mom-and-pop stands. Without automobiles, grocery-shopping trips are nearly impossible for many residents.
That's why Resurrection House recently added a farmer's market to their offerings of hot meals and bagged staples.
"We wanted people to have the experience of choosing their own tomatoes and onions and cucumbers," says pastor Marcus Randles, who purchased the vegetables wholesale and added them to the regular supplies of pasta, bread, and canned goods the church distributes. "Most people don't know what it's like to have no fresh foods, and no way to get them," Randles says.
When the ministry team started bagging the veggies, Randles stopped them. "Give people a bag and let them pick what they want," he told the workers.
Bringing greens to the food desert is a growing ministry opportunity. Some urban food banks, inner-city pharmacies, and grocery-delivery services are making fresh produce a priority. But many churches with food pantries balk at handling fresh produce, because of transportation and spoilage issues. Randles is one local pastor taking on the cause. He is recruiting regional growers to share their surplus for their next free farmer's market, like Second Harvest on a local scale.
"We share the gospel with the people who come," he says, "but first we give them good food and show respect for their physical needs."