And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.”—Ruth 2:2
Probably no more than a couple of years ago I was introduced to a new-to-me phrase: “food deserts.” As a Midwestern farmer’s daughter, I struggled a bit to wrap my mind around the “food desert” concept. Because we grew our own food not only for the table, but also for the freezer and the cellar, going hungry was never an issue. We might not have always had what we might have preferred to eat, but there was always plenty of healthy, wholesome food available. Hunger and starvation were serious problems that occurred in distant lands, but not here in the United States.
Of course, as an adult I’ve been aware that people not only go hungry, but even starve to death here in the United States, too. Through my introduction to “food deserts,” I have come to realize that there are places in our country, mostly urban areas, where there are actually barriers to people being able to access healthy food of any kind.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Self-Development of People program is a ministry that affirms God’s concern for humankind. A core concept is co-missionally empowering people to benefit from endeavors they own and control. The owning, planting, tending and harvesting from urban vegetable gardens established in a “food desert” is an example of self-development of people.
Eight Self-Development of People projects totaling $97,650 have been funded to date this year:
- Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston/Auburn, Maine, $14,300 to assist this women’s group with its program.
- Damayan Cleaning cooperative, New York, New York, $15,000 for this worker-owned cooperative.
- Wayside Outreach and Development Inc., Brooklyn, New York, $4,000 to replace equipment and supplies lost or damaged during renovation; to provide training in arts, crafts and sewing to seniors to improve their quality of life.
- Equipping, Encouraging & Empowering Workers in Vredenburg, Alabama, $14,450 tohelp underemployed and unemployed local residents prepare for the workforce through test preparation and GED classes.
- VEGGI Farmers Cooperative, New Orleans, Louisiana, $15,000 for this multiethnic farmers cooperative growing vegetables to sell to the public as well as grocers in East New Orleans.
- Families & Criminal Justice, Los Angeles, California, $14,900 for this peer-to-peer support group that works with women who are incarcerated or recently released to improve their health.
- Radio Indigena (Indigenous Radio Station), Oxnard, California, $15,000 for this nonprofit community radio station that broadcasts in indigenous languages to serve the community in Ventura County.
- Stitching up Detroit, Michigan, $5,000 in technical assistance for a youth-run screen print and graphic design collective.