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Community Garden

Oasis IN A Food Desert

The Southeast church in Cleveland is situated in the middle of a desert. Not sun-baked land surrounded by windswept sand dunes, but in an urban area now commonly referred to as a “food desert” – where grocery stores are few, and those with good quality fruits and vegetables are even fewer. And organic produce? Not a chance – until now.

DIGGING IN – Making food available to those in need is a familiar notion to members leading Southeast’s Community Services Department. The Allegheny West congregation started enthusiastically serving local residents through their Food Bank program 25 years ago. So, when a representative for the city’s Ward 1 Community Health Initiative (CHI) approached them in early 2010 to start a community garden project, they believed the two would go hand in hand—and just happened to fit nicely into Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.


J-Reynolds-gardenJohn Reynolds, a longtime Southeast member, was at that meeting with CHI, “I had the audacity to open up my mouth and ask the question, “How would something like this get started”? he remembers. “And the rest, as they say, is history!”

Gertrude Trice-gardenREADY TO ROLL – Eighty-seven years young, Gertrude Dunham, a Southeast elder and stewardship committee member, is particularly passionate about her garden plot. Despite a disability, Dunham “rolls around” on her stool to tend to her various veggies.

BOUNTIFUL GIVING – Carol Boddy, CHI program  coordinator for Ward 1, is impressed with the generosity of Southeast’s gardeners. “Southeast takes approximately 40 percent of its food and gives it back to the community,” she stresses. Last year, Ward 1 recognized the church’s generosity with an aware for donating 700 pounds of produce over a two-year period through their Food Bank.

These are excerpts from a 4 page article featured in the Columbia Visitor, April 2012, Volume 117, Issue 4 on the Southeast’s Community Garden.