A New Bern faith community that worked with Cooperative Extension to establish a successful farmers’ market has had its efforts honored and rewarded. The Peletah Ministries received a $94,240 grant from the USDA Farmers’ Market Promotion program to enhance the work of its Joseph Community Market. U.S. Rep. G.K Butterfield, from North Carolina’s 1st congressional district, presented the check to Peletah Ministries’ Pastor Dawn Baldwin Gibson and market manager Marva Fisher Baldwin during a community celebration Oct. 14.
Baldwin said that the grant will enable the market “to make an impact not only to communities today, but to communities tomorrow.” She also encouraged the local and state partners in attendance to “roll up their sleeves” to help in this effort to address food insecurity and access to local foods in New Bern.
Begun in 2014, the Joseph Community Market came about through the efforts of Peletah Ministries working with Kelly Beasley, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, through Extension’s Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More program.
Beasley had implemented a series of educational lessons that connect faith and health, with particular attention to healthy eating and physical activity. She also worked with Gibson to implement several policies and changes to improve health in the congregation, including changes to the kinds of meals that were served.
However, Gibson and her team realized that knowing about nutrition was not enough; they needed to put it into action. Recognizing their community’s need for fresh, affordable, local foods, the members of Peletah Ministries turned to Beasley. She connected them with the Community Transformation Grant program through the N.C. Division of Public Health, in order to secure funds to start a small farmers’ market at the church.
The market they started as a result — called the Joseph Market, after the biblical figure of Joseph, who helped to prepare people for a famine — has continued to grow ever since.
“Faithful Families is about helping faith communities to look at their environment and their surrounding neighborhood to see how they can help to promote health,” said Dr. Annie Hardison-Moody, Faithful Families director. “The work that Peletah has done exemplifies that. They have engaged local and state partners to improve access to healthy, local foods in their community. We are proud to say they are a Faithful Families community.”
The summer of 2015 was a pivotal time for the Joseph Community Market, as the team from Peletah partnered with Carolina East Hospital, which offered funding to provide a “double bucks” program to market attendees who used their EBT/SNAP dollars at the market. This increased the number of attendees per month at the market from 50 to 300. A community partner remarked at the celebration meeting that by the end of the market season, they were regularly selling out of produce because there was such high demand.
Now, the USDA funding will help to expand the outreach of the market. Among planned activities is the training of community ambassadors, who will work to promote the market, while also helping families to learn strategies to cope with food insecurity and hunger. The goal of this project, said Gibson, is to provide, “not a hand out, but a hand up.”
This work expands the outcomes that Peletah has seen in their food pantry project, as well, where they went from feeding 60 individuals at the start of their pantry, to now serving 9,000 a year.
And Peletah continues to exemplify the importance of partnering with faith communities to enhance opportunities for healthy, local foods in their communities. Beasley’s work through Faithful Families was a starting point for Peletah, but as October’s celebration evidences, it’s only the beginning. As Baldwin put it, the goal for the market and Peletah’s work on food and food security is not just about “changing the mindset on food,” but it’s about helping people “to live a better life.”
Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More is a partnership between the N.C. Division of Public Health and North Carolina Cooperative Extension at NC State University. It is a practice-tested, faith-based health promotion intervention that promotes healthy eating and physical activity in communities of faith.
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