Community garden takes shape at South L.A. church

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By 2UrbanGirls

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The Faith Community Coalition, in conjunction with Logos Faith Development, is sponsoring three community gardens.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as an area that has limited access to affordable and healthy food. There are many food deserts within the South L.A. area, as well as a wide variety of organizations that work to mitigate the problem of food insecurity in various ways.

“St. Mark’s United Methodist Church was an ideal candidate as a pilot site for our program because the church already participates in mitigating food insecurity by distributing food to their community and has a leader, Pastor Gary Bernard Williams, who understands the correlation between food accessibility and health disparity,” said Rev. Jennifer Oliver. “We envision this garden being a wonderful opportunity to nourish the community with food, love, care and concern for the whole person.”

The pandemic magnified the issue of food insecurity. One way of creating access is by giving organizations and churches the tools to sustainably grow and produce healthy food options that can be distributed to their surrounding communities.

The Meditation and Produce Garden will indeed serve that purpose, however, through collaborative efforts and the assistance of Jamiah Hargins of Crop Swap LA, a sacred space was created as a holistic benefit.

Rev. Williams shared he was motivated to bring a community garden to the members of his church when he saw the oversaturation of unhealthy food options in his community.

“With the lack of supermarkets and access to fresh produce, African Americans are experiencing disproportionately higher rates of diagnosis and death from diet-related chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension that I’ve seen in my congregation and in my own family,” said Rev. Williams. “There are over two million residents in Los Angeles County who are food insecure, therefore, food justice needs to be a priority in our churches.

“I realized we had the beginnings of what could become a model for churches to establish gardens and farmers markets on church-owned land. Black churches are uniquely positioned to use their land to address the injustices associated with food insecurity in our community.”

The Faith Community Coalition is aware of the long-term effects of South L.A. being a food desert and welcomed the opportunity to fund the program to assist some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“I watched as supermarkets in South Los Angeles burned during the 1992 civil unrest, which created food deserts for Black and brown people,” said the Rev. John Cager, founder of the Faith Community Coalition. “These grants will provide access to fresh, healthy options for residents.”

The garden program is a part of the coalition’s Health and Wellness platform, utilizing the coalition’s focus on building transformational relationships in order to tackle complex issues (i.e., food insecurity, poverty, housing) in the African-American community.

“I am incredibly pleased that Logos can underwrite the coalition’s work in the area of community gardens,” said Martin Porter, managing partner of Logos. “It’s our intention to take targeted action that maximizes social impact and the opportunity for people to both live in the kingdom of God and to build it up. I can think of no better way to do this than community gardens that cause us to eat better, garden in community, get off our phones and screens, and into the soil together.”

St. Mark’s community garden is on track to open in late summer.

2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at 2urbangirls@gmail.com.

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