By Kate Shackelford
Art by Hallie Anderson
Two days a week, the parking lot of the Church of the Holy Communion becomes the site of a contact-free farmers market.
Holy Communion serves as a pick-up location for a Memphis-based organization called Bring It Food Hub.
Bring It Food Hub’s mission is “to promote community development in Memphis and the Mid-South by increasing access to healthy, affordable and local foods and by strengthening farmer livelihoods.”
They have become leaders of the farm-to-table movement in the area. In addition to their subscriptions and sale items, the Pay It Forward option allows customers to donate $25 in order to place a bag of fresh produce in the home of a family in need. The organization also accepts volunteers to help pack produce bags.
Every Wednesday and Friday, members of the community can drive up to the south entrance of the church’s welcome center to grab their bags of fresh produce and goods.
The program offers one-month and full-season Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to be delivered on a weekly or biweekly basis. Shoppers can select from a traditional seasonal produce box as well as a selection of meat, eggs, bread, coffee and even flowers. Products are also available on a single purchase basis, meaning they do not require commitment to a several-month-long subscription. (More information is available via the Bring It Food Hub website.)
Holy Communion originally became involved with the organization three years ago. Bring It Food Hub wanted to work with the faith communities, and Reverend Noah Campbell, who spearheads the Food, Faith and Agriculture ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee, promoted the opportunity for collaboration. At the start, the church scheduled pick-up time to overlap with Wednesday evening programming: choir rehearsal, church dinner and youth group. “We decided to piggyback it on those because we knew people would be there; it would be easy to monitor,” said Reverend Hester Mathes, senior associate rector at Holy Communion.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and all Wednesday activities were put on hold. Despite the cancellations, Holy Communion recognized the need to continue this program, especially given the pandemic. Many families in the Memphis area were struggling to put food on the table. Some felt concern over exposure at grocery stores; others were juggling a reduced paycheck — or no income at all.
The church quickly evolved their produce pick-up location into an outreach program. “We wanted to offer a place where people felt safe to pick up fresh produce. It became not just for subscribers, but for the need in the community and in the neighborhood. We put the bags on tables outside the Welcome Center, so people could drive up and grab them, no contact. They did not have to be buzzed in or go to a desk,” Rev. Hester said.
Soon afterwards, Holy Communion became the largest pick-up site. They were so overwhelmed with orders that they added an extra day –– Friday –– and extended the pick-up time slot to be any time of day. Rev. Hester said that she does not recognize many of the names on the pick-up list each week. “Probably only a quarter are members of Holy Communion,” she said.
“We started including a weekly prayer for the pandemic,” Rev. Hester said. Through this partnership, Holy Communion fosters the connection between food and faith.
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