General CBF

Baptists Fight Hunger—Westwood Baptist responds to empty shelves at local food pantry

Welcome to our blog series—At the Table: Baptist Fight Hunger!  

Part 12 is by Michelle Anderson, minister of youth at Westwood Baptist Church in
Cary, N.C.

By Michelle Anderson

Two years ago, I was standing with our youth group in the local food pantry staring at empty shelves and listening to the volunteer explain that donations were at an all time low. One of the reasons for the shortage was that many farmers no longer had fresh produce to contribute. I immediately thought to myself that our church should have a community garden and give all the produce to people in need.

How hard could it be?

Aglow with my new found passion, I shared this vision with our pastor, who was equally excited. We quickly called a meeting with a few members of the congregation who have experience in gardening, and we began to examine our resources.Garden Spring 2013

The only piece of land suitable for planting our garden left much to be desired.  It was low lying and collected water when it rained. Local deer used it for grazing, sleeping and playing. Red fire ants found it irresistible. It served as the dumping area for debris when the building was constructed.

Did I mention that there was no budget for this project?

Even though our concerns grew, our enthusiasm grew as well. We felt that this garden could be a very practical way to help meet the needs of the hungry in our community. As we shared our vision with the congregation, others began to join the efforts.

We quickly saw our dream begin to take root.Garden2

Sunday School classes, mission groups and individuals donated money for the fence, equipment, fertilizer, seeds and plants. Volunteers signed up for the grueling job of building a fence, tilling the ground and spreading the topsoil. Experienced gardeners planned a schedule for 15 different types of crops and planted the first seeds.

Then we watched and waited.

We watched this 50×40 foot piece of land with anxious eyes and hearts, praying for a plentiful yield to share with our neighbors. What happened in the months to follow was a beautiful sight. As green shoots emerged from the ground and a rainbow of vegetables weighed down the vines, we rejoiced and gave thanks.Garden - Beets

In that first season, we harvested over one ton of vegetables and fruit. Workers signed up to deliver the produce to local crisis ministry organizations, all of whom were eager to have fresh and healthy options to give to the needy who came through their doors. Other church members picked vegetables to take to their friends who needed assistance with food, and extended an open invitation for them to glean as often as they needed.

Along with our success, we also learned a few difficult lessons along the way. Even though beets may provide a bountiful harvest, they are fairly useless if people do not know how to prepare them! Potatoes can and will drown if your garden plot does not drain sufficiently.  When the deer netting around the plot collapses, it only takes a few minutes for the deer to find their favorite plants and have a feast!

While the harvest was plentiful, there were other products of the Westwood Garden that were just as beautiful. Our congregation became more aware of the fact that even in the affluent town of Cary, people struggle with basic needs such as food. A fifth grade boy set up a lemonade stand in his neighborhood to raise money for the garden.Garden July 2013 2

Intergenerational service became a common sight as senior adult gardeners taught young children how to plant seeds and as families harvested vegetables together. Our children and youth gained an appreciation for the work that it requires to put food on the table.

Now, we are nearing the end of our second season with the Westwood Garden. Each harvest brings excitement for being able to join God in his work of caring for those in need. It’s amazing what a little dirt, a few seeds and some willing hands can do in such a short period of time.

We anxiously wait to see what fresh idea God will plant in our hearts next!

See additional information about the state of hunger in Wake County, N.C., courtesy of Map the Meal Gap, a project of Feeding America. Check out statistics for your area with this interactive online tool.


Previous posts in this series:

Part 1 — At the Table: Baptists Fight HungerA CBFblog series

Part 2 — FBC Winston-Salem feeds bodies and souls with backpack ministry

Part 3 — South Carolina church models missional engagement with God’s Garden

Part 4 — New monastic activist Shane Claiborne spurs rural church to start community garden

Part 5 — How to be missional? Little Rock church hosts Farmers Market

Part 6 — Florida church strives to be presence of Christ and meet needs of their community

Part 7 — The Cleveland County Potato Project

Part 8 — Mosaic Community Garden as a place of acceptance for all

Part 9 — CBF partner Seeds of Hope reflects on long history of hunger ministry

Part 10 — Distributing food with dignity in Eastern North Carolina

Part 11 — 40 years later, FBC Jonesboro still feeding thousands in Arkansas

Part 12 — Westwood Baptist responds to empty shelves at local food pantry

2 thoughts on “Baptists Fight Hunger—Westwood Baptist responds to empty shelves at local food pantry

  1. Pingback: Baptists Fight Hunger—Starting a conversation about nutrition, not just hunger | Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Blog

  2. Pingback: Richmond’s Huguenot Road Baptist focuses on being Christ’s presence in overlooked places | Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Blog

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