By Sigrid Hall, Winston-Salem Chronicle
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation has partnered with the North Carolina Council of Churches to provide grants to faith-based organizations to help them supply healthy eating alternatives to their members and underserved communities.
United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church (UMMBC) is one of 20 faith-based organizations that have received a $5,000 Healthy Eating Equipment Grant. The church will use the grant to purchase much needed equipment and supplies to support the 10 gardens that now comprise the S.G. Atkins Community Gardens at Winston-Salem State University.
United Metropolitan is in its second year as one of the partners of the S.G. Atkins Community Gardens. Garden partners at the site share resources such as tools, equipment, a storage shed and gardening tips. The grant will provide for the purchase of several key items that include among other things, assorted gardening equipment; heavy-duty hoses, sprinklers, tillers, wheelbarrows and mulch as well as patio umbrellas with bases for sheltering the workers from the heat.
Simon’s Community Gardens (SCG) is an organic gardening community. It ties together WSSU’s students, faculty, staff, neighboring churches and civic clubs. The venue provides intergenerational hands-on learning through sustainable horticulture, therapeutic gardening and teamwork. The ultimate goal of all gardens is to provide fresh produce and encourage a healthy lifestyle in underserved populations.
“The success of our garden and constant marketing and outreach to other organizations has helped our gardening community to grow to 10 gardens today,” said Sigrid Hall, who has headed the project since its inception. “What better way to promote healthy eating and lifestyles, and provide an opportunity for community engagement, feed the hungry, create learning opportunities for our students and area schools – and grow some great vegetables at the same time.”
The other garden partners are the Big Brothers Big Sisters Community Garden, the Ken Carlson Boys and Girls Club Garden, the City of Winston-Salem Youth Advisory Council Garden, the Emmanuel Baptist Church School Garden, the GRACE Garden, the Phi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Global Poverty Culture Project Simon’s Green Acre and the Southside Community Church Garden.
The success of the gardens is due in large part to the generous support of the S.G. Atkins Community Development Corporation, which donated the land and water for the gardens; the Forsyth County Agricultural Extension Service, that donated some seeds, expertise and cooking tips; and myriad volunteers who purchased additional plants/seeds and gardening materials spending countless hours tending them. These volunteers harvested and delivered produce to ministries for homeless, sick and the elderly. Over the past three years collectively, approximately 7,000 pounds of produce has been harvested. With the grant, the gardens collectively are expected to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables for underserved residents of Forsyth County this year.
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.