A New City and New City Roots
- Written by Joel
Fair Share is now working in Chattanooga, Tennessee! I’ve traded the sand in my sandals for clay on my boots. The decision to move Fair Share from Daytona Beach to Chattanooga was the result of an opportunity presented by an urban, multi-racial church, New City Fellowship. You could say ‘they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.’ Quite simply, it was the promise of a regular paycheck while transitioning the nonprofit organization from Florida to Tennessee.
Chattanooga has been home several times over the years and I have had close ties with the folks at New City for some time now. Their urban and mercy ministry with the poor is unique and powerful. As the pastor became aware of the work Fair Share was striving to do in Daytona Beach, he was captured by our vision for establishing urban garden projects that can help low-income residents stretch their food budget by growing their own fresh, nutritious vegetable gardens. The center city neighborhoods of Chattanooga are a mosaic within one astonishingly large food desert, leaving thousands of households without access to healthy food.
New City Fellowship has been operating a food pantry serving people in need of emergency assistance for many years. It was obvious that even as food pantries are critical to meeting the immediate need, growing food in the food deserts could make a significant impact moving people beyond charity towards increased self-reliance.
After spending the first few weeks traveling about the familiar streets of center city neighborhoods and introducing myself to the folks already working to address food security issues and exploring who was doing what, we launched our first project called “New City Roots.” Large raised bed vegetable gardens have been installed on the church property and much of the planting has been done by the kids!
The food being grown is available for anyone who needs it and many of the seniors in the neighborhood surrounding the church have expressed how grateful they are to have the ability to pick fresh veggies, and of course, everyone has appreciated the giant towering sunflowers!
Not many Presbyterian churches around the country have their own earthy, long-haired ‘garden guy’ on staff, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be working at what I love while getting Fair Share established as a nonprofit and registered here in Tennessee. I am equally grateful for the beautiful people back in Daytona Beach who are still planting and harvesting from the food gardens we began together. Despite the distance between us, we are all still “sowing hope and growing community.”