Monday, May 18, 2015

Feeding body and soul (Matt. 25: 35)

Ten years ago, Rev. Richard Joyner decided he'd conducted too many funerals in his 300-member congregation at Conetoe Missionary Baptist Church about 70 miles from Raleigh, NC. Thirty members, all younger than 32-years-old, died in one year. Many of the deaths were related to poor diets. So Rev. Joyner expanded his pastorate to feed not just souls, but also bodies. In 2007, he started a small community garden tended by the youngest members of his church. The harvest of healthy foods was given to local families or sold at farmer's markets, with proceeds spent on scholarships.

Rev. Joyner feeds hungry souls and bodies.   (Photo courtesy of Natalie Basis)

The initiative took root, and today 60 students tend 25 acres of vegetables plus 130 bee hives during after-school and summer programs. More than 20 other local churches have joined the effort. Youthful gardeners learn how to cook what they grow, plus patience, persistence and leadership. On weekends, families can harvest all they want, so long as gardeners do the cooking. Joyner says his youthful gardeners "feel really good when they take something home to their parents. They get to see how it feels to be givers rather than takers."

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