Our friends at Partners in Health and Wholeness (North Carolina Council of Churches) recently passed along an announcement of a new program, Nourishing NC , a joint venture between the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. The mission of Nourishing NC is to install or enhance community gardens throughout the state with the goal of starting gardens in all 100 counties by the end of 2013. The initiative will be led by public parks, health, and extension departments, but it seeks participation from non-governmental groups including churches.
NCRPA lists sound public health reasons for promoting community gardens:
- Nutrition: Greater availability of fresh fruit and vegetables will improve people's diets.
- Accessibility: The program addresses the fact that vast swaths of the state are “food deserts” – areas where it is difficult to find and buy nourishing food. Under the rules of Nourishing NC, the produce will be distributed at least partially through local homeless shelters and food pantries, so will be directed toward the neediest members of our community.
- Exercise: Gardening is a physical activity that benefits the health of volunteers of all ages.
In a recent sermon re-published in Faith & Leadership , Norman Wirzba reflects on the image of God as a gardener, and reminds us of some potential spiritual benefits of gardening: to build beloved communities; to celebrate the sheer simple goodness of creation; to worship God on an elemental, visceral level.
Nourishing NC will offer grants to communities, as well as other resources for congregations who want to get involved with community gardening. Check the NCRPA website for full information.
John James, M.A.
Research Analyst, Clergy Health Initiative