By Joi Thomas, Special to the AFRO
In 2018, it is important to find ways to empower our communities with resources, education and economic opportunity. Many churches and Pastors have various community programs that meet these goals. One of those is Dr. Heber Brown, III, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore.
Brown is the founder of The Black Church Food Security Network (BCFSN). BCFSN is an alliance of churches that have or want to have gardens on church-owned land to help further the goal of food equity in the African American community. “We work together – learning from one another, getting discounts as we collectively buy what our individual gardens need, helping each other on our respective church garden projects, and taking a more collaborative approach with the other churches in our neighborhood to address the commonly held food insecurity issues in our communities,” Brown said. “In addition, BCFSN builds bridges between Black farmers and Black churches – pipelining fresh produce from soil to sanctuary.”
According to Brown, empowering the church community to grow their own food is a biblically based idea. “From a spiritual sense, it is part of the witness of Holy Scripture that Jesus was concerned with the total person – and not just the condition of their souls,” Brown explained. “We have long celebrated the ways that Christ miraculously transformed people’s lives by healing them from diseases, restoring their families and yes, feeding those who were hungry and systematically excluded. Since we take our cues from the Messiah, we have opportunity to mimic Him in ministering to those around us…Churches have long engaged in uplifting food ministries, from pantries to soup kitchens and other kinds of donations, individual churches have glorified God while serving ‘the least of these’ among us.”
Brown was inspired to begin this work after seeing the benefits that came from his church garden over the course of approximately five years. “Because of our garden, the members of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church have been blessed by greater access to fresh food, healthier church meals, the sharing of recipes, and overall better health.” He also spoke to how his church garden helped to connect the generations in his congregation, create stronger bonds with the local community, less hospital visits and allowed more funding to be available for ministry because the garden made them eligible for certain grants and financial resource opportunities.
Currently there are nine Baltimore area churches in the network, with four other congregations and one mosque slated to join later this year. There are also plans to expand to rural churches on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the near future.
Brown is a pastor, community organizer and social entrepreneur. This year he will celebrate his 10th pastoral anniversary. “The African American community is disproportionately poor, imprisoned and oppressed,” Brown said. “Furthermore, we are blind to the ways in which the food system as its currently constructed negatively impacts our health and keeps us locked out of opportunities. Through the ministry of BCFSN and in the power of God, we say, no more!”
To learn more about the BCFSN, contact Brown by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or calling (410) 435-0851 ext. 407.