Mountain Island churches go green to fight hunger

by Molly Reitter

Homestead United Methodist Church, 6729 Old Mount Holly Road, collaborates with four Mountain Island United Methodist churches to grow food for hungry residents. (Molly Reitter/MIM photo)

CHARLOTTE – When the economy soured in 2008, aid for the poor dried up, and Mountain Island-area churches were left to figure out how feed the hungry with limited support and money.

That same year, the Rev. Alexis Coleman, pastor at Homestead United Methodist Church, was leading a Bible study when the conversation turned to how, in the wake of the recession, some community members were left without food. Inspired by an older church member’s memories of the victory gardens of World War II – vegetable gardens used to increase food production during wartime food rationing – Coleman pitched the idea of a community garden to feed the hungry.

“The purpose of the garden is to be part of the extended community,” Coleman said. “We invite our neighbors to be a part of something, and if folks are hungry, we invite them to take what they need.”

Members from Christ, Covenant, Homestead, Moore’s Chapel and Thrift United Methodist churches maintain the garden. The churches often collaborate on outreach projects.

Ana Thompson, a horticulture major at Central Piedmont Community College, heard about the community garden project from her home church, Christ United Methodist. Thompson and her boyfriend are now in charge of caring for the garden.

“We are using organic sustainable practices,” Thompson said.

The group, Thompson said, kept water conservation in mind when planning the garden by placing beds on contours to prevent drainage. They also use tanks – attached to hoses used for watering – to catch rainwater.

Thompson said she wants to use her passion for sustainable agriculture and organic farming to feed the hungry while educating church members and garden volunteers about sustainable practices.

“When we decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, it helps the economy and the farmers,” she said.

The garden produces an array of fruits and vegetables such as onions, sugar snap peas, kale, tomatoes, corn, strawberries, Asian greens and asparagus. The group tends to two pear trees, two fig trees, two apple trees, four blueberry bushes and some elderberry bushes, and a bare arbor stands ready for grape vines.

Those served by the churches’ ministries benefit directly from the garden, Coleman said. Thrift United Methodist Church uses fresh food from the garden to help stock its food pantry. Homestead United Methodist Church sponsors a meal the second Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. that is open to the entire community. The church aims to cook meals that consist mostly of food from the garden.

“The garden shows creation at its finest,” Coleman said. “We are connecting folks with God and His good gifts in the garden.”

Want to go?

Thrift United Methodist Church, 8245 Moores Chapel Road, hosts a free, community meal the second Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call the church at 704-392-9807.

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