On the first Saturday of August, you’ll find 31 members of Trinity Lutheran, Rocky Mount, N.C., in two places: the farmers’ market and the church kitchen.
More than a year ago the small congregation was searching for a way to reach beyond its walls to help the poor. They discovered that United Community Ministries Soup Kitchen received an abundance of fresh produce from community gardens throughout the summer. But lacking freezer capacity, more than half of the produce spoiled. The congregation decided a return to the simple practice of home canning was the answer, and “With God We Can!” was born.
Last spring a representative from the North Carolina State University Extension Services trained members on how to safely and properly can produce.
From August to late November, members gather produce from the Nash County Farmers’ Market and can it. Each Saturday they arrive with empty plastic buckets for the last hour the market is open, receiving produce the growers can’t keep for sale the following week.
Vegetables and fruit are taken to church for washing, slicing and dicing, then canning. If it’s a week that only a small amount of produce is available, it’s taken directly to the soup kitchen for immediate use.
Using pressure cookers and jars donated by members and friends, skilled canners process the vegetables and fruits into glass quart jars while others label them.
The jars are blessed and delivered each week to the soup kitchen and to the Bassett Center, which houses homeless families with children.
Last winter the community’s hungry and homeless enjoyed apples, beets, cabbage, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, okra, peanuts, pears, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and watermelon — 1,095 jars of vegetables and fruits weighing 1,622 pounds.
The most unanticipated reward, said Alice Johnson-Curl, pastor of Trinity, was the opportunity for so many members of the diverse congregation — and community — to become better acquainted. That happens when the final tally indicates 1,345 hours working side by side.
For more information, contact Alice Johnson-Curl (email@example.com), who reports that canning season begins two months early this summer with new partners — two local Baptist churches.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers