By Terry Turner , courtesy of Good News Network
A North Carolina preacher was nominated for a top hero prize after he created a nutritional oasis in what had been a food desert.
Pastor Richard Joyner had to preside over many funerals for members of his congregation due to diseases related to poor nutrition.
One day, he decided to do something about it: grow the healthy food himself.
He started a community garden at the Missionary Baptist Church where he preached in Conetoe. It multiplied to 20 plots of land around the community, including a 25-acre farm run by his nonprofit Conetoe Family Life Center.
Joyner started teaching children in the congregation to plant and raise crops so they might grow up with an appreciation for better nutrition. Now, 80 kids work the gardens, and, every year, they harvest 50,000 pounds of fresh produce.
Additionally, his congregation keeps its own beehives to pollinate crops.
Whatever isn’t eaten is given away to others in the neighborhood or sold to local restaurants to raise scholarship money for young people in the church. Since 2007, his project has helped families in the poverty-stricken town cut food bills in half.
One member of his church says she has stopped taking 27 medications a day and only needs to take six because of these healthy lifestyle changes.
Community health as a whole has improved, emergency room visits are down, and Pastor Joyner has a lot fewer funerals to preside over.