This article reproduced from the Tuscaloosa News under a Creative Commons license.
By Angel Coker. Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.
Church provides fresh vegetables to needy
Some of the squash and other vegetables she and volunteers had picked from the garden days before were packed into boxes at the West Alabama Food Bank and delivered on Tuesday to about 100 senior citizens who live below the poverty line.
Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa began Jeremiah’s Community Garden about three months ago and began harvesting vegetables about three weeks ago. Since then, about 900 pounds of vegetables have been donated to the food bank to be dispersed among the hungry citizens of West Alabama.
“To receive fresh, local vegetables and then to be able to get them into the hands of our neighbors who don’t have access to that, it’s such a blessing,” said Jean Rykaczewski, the food bank’s executive director.
Lofton’s husband, Roy, said he and his wife had been serving food at one of the local soup bowls and decided it would be better to establish a garden that would provide more food than one meal a day.
They took the idea to their church, and now they manage the nearly 1-acre garden where eggplant, squash, watermelon, corn, tomatoes, peppers, okra, peas, beans and herbs grow profusely.
“The abundance is here. There’s going to be more. I figure there’s going to be somewhere close to 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of vegetables that come out of here just to the food bank,” said Neal Hargle, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System agent who helps maintain the garden and provides counsel.
Hargle said the more the vegetables are picked, the more they’ll grow.
They harvest on a daily basis and deliver to the food bank. Volunteers who help pick the vegetables get to take some home, too.
“We have so many people in our community that are hungry that, that need help. We have people who … only have one meal a day when they go by the soup kitchen. So what happens to the other two meals,” Bettye Lofton said. “We thought that this would be a way to get vegetables to the community in general.”
But the plan is to do more than vegetables.
The garden is set up in five phases, Lofton said. She said the first was the vegetable garden. The next phases include possibly planting some fruit trees, putting up green houses, developing a nature trail around the property for people to enjoy the serene setting and renovating the barn that’s on site to use for cleaning vegetables and educational purposes.
And when the spring/summer garden runs out, Hargle said they will begin planting a fall garden that will be full of greens like lettuces, spinach and collards to keep the food flowing to the food bank.
The garden will be formally dedicated today at 9 a.m. It is run from donations of time and money. To donate, contact the Loftons at 205-242-3772 or Holy Spirit Catholic Church at 205-553-9733.