Written by Minda Davison, director for communications

“When a church has a garden in their lawn, it is an outward reflection of the light of God. Our lawns are about doing God’s work. Our lawns are about feeding hungry people. And there is no greater joy than to serve God.” Sonia Kendrick, Feed Iowa First

One of the most fulfilling parts of working for the Southeastern Iowa Synod is hearing the stories of how congregations are living out our synod’s mission of helping hungry hearts find bread. As an anti-hunger synod we are committed to supporting and starting feeding ministries in our communities.

At Ascension Lutheran Church in Marion there is a growing passion to stop hunger in the community. While attending the 2012 Synod Assembly at Augustana College, Ascension member Tim York attended a presentation where he heard about a congregation in Des Moines that was fighting hunger in their neighborhood through a community garden. The seed had been planted, and Tim came back from the assembly asking, “Why couldn’t Ascension have a garden?” The answer from the congregation and Pastor Linda Livingston was a resounding, “Yes, we can have a garden.”

Tim reached out to Sonia Kendrick, founder and executive director of Feed Iowa First, to help start Ascension’s garden. Feed Iowa First’s mission is to feed hungry people now and into the future by providing fresh fruit and vegetables to Iowa’s food banks and supporting beginning farmers. Over 400,000 people in Iowa are food insecure, and 25,000 live in Linn County.  Feed Iowa First estimates it would take 500 acres of land to feed the 25,000 hungry people in Linn County. 800 acres of land surrounds just churches in Linn County, “We can solve the problem of hunger. We just have to decide to,” said Kendrick.

Ascension has chosen to help solve the problem of hunger in Linn County. This spring and summer the garden produced tomatoes and collard greens that were donated to Horizons Meals on Wheels and Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, Inc. Next year the garden will grow watermelons, which are currently being grown and harvested at another Feed Iowa First garden site at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids. St. Andrew also made the choice to help solve the problem of hunger in their community, and became connected with Feed Iowa First through a member of their congregation that works at Rockwell Collins, where there is a Feed Iowa First garden. Despite the hot and dry summer, the watermelon garden produced over 1,000 pounds of fresh watermelon for Horizons Meals on Wheels.

The gardens at Ascension and St. Andrew are not only feeding the hungry in Linn County, they are feeding each congregation’s desire and commitment to feeding the over 25,000 people in Linn County who are food insecure. “We have made a commitment in our synod to be advocates for people who are hungry and may not have a voice,” Pastor Linda Livingston, Ascension Lutheran Church.

You can learn more about Feed Iowa First at www.feediowa1st.org

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