Monday, April 15, 2024

Grove Christian Outreach is Providing Fresh Food for the Grove Community

Katie Patrick of Grove Christian Outreach Center. (Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

Part two of this series will explore how local nonprofit Grove Christian Outreach is using local resources to better its neighborhood.

JAMES CITY COUNTY — Grove Christian Outreach is working to meet the needs of its Grove area neighbors who live in what is considered a ‘food desert’ through collaborative efforts.

“The closest grocery store is over five miles away,” explains Katie Patrick, Executive Director for Grove Christian Outreach. “If you do not have transportation or if you struggle with transportation, that is far. Riding a bus to get groceries takes a lot of time to get there and get back, having to carry all your bags is really a challenge.”

According to the Food Empowerment Project, “Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance.”

Healthy, fresh produce is in high demand, especially where convenient grocery stores are not prevalent.

“If we are able to maintain our fresh food room, here in the middle of this food desert then we are doing our best work to achieve our mission,” Patrick said.

Fresh produce at Grove Christian Outreach. (Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

Through a grant established by the USDA Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) with distribution through Lulu’s Local Food and KelRae Farm, local food pantries such as Grove Christian Outreach are able to provide fresh produce to their communities. (Read more about the program in part one of this series.)

“Prior to 2020, most of the produce we got at the Outreach Center was secondary. Things retailers would be throwing away and we would rescue it. Those items would have a short shelf life.’ Patrick continued, “So, I approached KelRae about a purchasing program and they were willing to plant extra produce for us that we can purchase fresh. Locally grown produce for our food pantry is life changing for the residents we serve.”

There are cultural differences as well. KelRae Farm plants based on the needs and wants of the community.

“This makes a tremendous difference in the offerings and variety we are able to put into our fresh food room,” stated Patrick.

In addition to KelRae Farm, Grove Christian Outreach receives produce, dairy, eggs and prepared foods from several other sources through the food hub program and donations, according to Patrick.

Residents at Grove Christian Outreach are able to come in and choose fresh choices for their families. This eliminates waste while providing for the actual needs within the neighborhood.

“There is no shame in needing food assistance but when you are not treated with dignity, it feeds the shameful feelings,” said Patrick. “Accessing food should be normal.”

Patrick feels the LFPA allowance is worth celebrating, “That our state government, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is doing something different that is having a direct benefit on food insecure families. The way this funding is working, we are able to select foods that the people we serve actually want and we can provide something of great value. It is having such a positive impact on families.”

Find out more about Grove Christian Outreach here.

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