With land to spare, churches turn to farming

As Baltimore was convulsed by protests in 2015 over the death of a young black man in police custody, thousands of demonstrators forced shops and schools in some neighborhoods to close–creating sudden food deserts, particularly for many people without a vehicle.

“People didn’t have access to food,” said Darriel Harris, a Baptist preacher, noting that many in the impoverished community where the protests hit hardest ate hand to mouth, relying on convenience stores or school lunches. In response, Mr. Harris and two others quickly began to organize, drawing on contacts who had access to farms in nearby states and bringing supplies into affected neighborhoods to distribute via a local church.

Now across the United States, more than 200 faith groups are members of an emerging Christian Food Movement, which promotes more sustainable food systems by growing their own crops, bringing idle land into use, and feeding the poor and hungry. Harris says about nine churches in Baltimore are growing their own food–some selling it at reduced rates, and others giving it away to their congregations.

Many Christian denominations around the world have massive landholdings which can be put to productive use. Kenya’s Catholic Church, for example, made 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) of land available to commercial farming in 2015 to fight hunger.

“These are people who are interested in activating their land portfolio for good…. For many of these groups, the answer is food charity, and that’s been a longstanding tradition within the church,” Ms. Von Tscharner Fleming said.

[Reuters]

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