Partnership fights food apartheid in Dayton
Food deserts continue to rise in urban cities with a high minority population. Large grocery chains move out of the area, leaving convenience stores as the only access for food. Because many of the options are unhealthy, the community suffers.
In 2018, members of Dixon United Methodist Church in Dayton, Ohio, sought an opportunity to connect with their community. When the district superintendent, the Rev. Jocelyn Roper, encouraged the congregation to think outside the box, they decided to pursue planning a community garden. The church has one main resource: several acres of land.
The Miami Valley District sponsored a small but mighty team of women, the Rev. Katie Wilson, Ida Hamilton and Christina Gunn, to attend a workshop at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Leading the seminar was the Rev. Heber Brown III, who launched Church Food Security Network in Baltimore.
Later that year, the Rev. Bridget Weatherspoon was appointed to Dixon UMC. She joined the team to begin planning. Within 10 months, with one paid staff person to till the soil, volunteers began the work.
As work schedules, age and health issues challenged volunteers, Dixon member Shirley Tucker posed a solution.
Tucker, who worked for the Montgomery Courts, suggested a partnership with the juvenile court system. As a result, younger people worked in the garden to earn community service hours and help the ministry continue.
“The children worked together with Ida Hamilton each Saturday to weed, plant and pick the vegetables,” Weatherspoon said.
The young people called the project “Auntie’s Garden,” and Weatherspoon made the name official.
Now in its third year, the garden has provided many pounds of fresh produce for the community as well as for food-insecurity programs supported by the Miami Valley District. This ministry is the heartbeat of Dixon and its neighborhood.
The team continues to learn more about gardening to produce better crops and to teach gardening and life skills to the youth.