Sacred Places Spring 2013 - Page 8

UPDATE on Partners: Philadelphia Office Food deserts are all too common in Philadelphia. Most often found in cities or rural areas, these are neighborhoods where people lack access to fresh foods. In such communities, many residents don’t own cars and public transportation does not give ready access to suburban grocery stores or farmers’ markets. Residents must make do with corner stores that sell heavily processed or preserved foods, and as a result, suffer damaging health effects from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and high blood pressure. Partners recognized that – although access to fresh food is unequally distributed throughout the city – access to congregational building space is not. There are houses of worship in all neighborhoods. Given this fact, sacred places are natural hubs for growing, cooking, distributing, and educating about healthy, nutritious food. To take advantage of these space assets, Partners is breaking new ground by facilitating partnerships between food justice organizations and congregations Building raised beds at SOLID ROCK umc in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. In addition to a community garden, the church is working with the Philadelphia Orchard Project to plant an “edible forest garden” of fruit trees and berry bushes whose harvest will be used to supplement the congregation’s food distribution program. 7 • Sacred Places • www.sacredplaces.org • Spring 2013 through our Food in Sacred Places program. This initiative aims to build a coalition of faith communities and urban nutrition organizations by making use of key congregational facilities to provide access to fresh, local food, improve nutrition education, and help people increase investment in their own communities. In the case of two of our initial projects, this means turning unused green space adjoining congregational buildings into outdoor urban farms and using indoor facilities to carry out nutrition education and cooking classes. In West Philadelphia, historic Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church has been in the Mill Creek neighborhood for over 100 years. An active congregation that is surrounded by green space, Ward had been looking for new ways to reach out to its neighborhood and address the nutritional challenges that it sees in its community. Partners connected Ward with the Urban Tree Connection (UTC), a gardening and farming nonprofit that has been active in the local food economy of the Haddington section of