“It’s certainly been a collaborative effort,” said Horn, who works full time as an attorney in addition to her role with Faith Feeds. “Being an avid gardener, John knew you always have excess (food) –– even more than you could give to your neighbors and friends. He knew people were hungry and he wanted to do something with the excess.”
“We waste so much food, there’s so much hunger, and the people who need the best nutrition don’t always get it because they can’t afford it,” added Walker, who by day is a biologist at the University of Kentucky. “When we realized the abundance of stuff that’s growing fresh and available, it became a case of how do we connect the farmer that has extra food with the people that need it?”
Walker and Horn began contacting people they knew to be involved in farming and gardening to help brainstorm ideas for the program. They identified local sources of excess food, such as the Lexington Farmers’ Market, Bluegrass Farmers’ Market, Good Foods Co-op, Whole Foods, and local farms such as Reed Valley Orchard and Berries on Bryan Station.
“We decided to see if they would donate their excess food, and we would send a volunteer to take it to an emergency food agency or a church with a food ministry,” Horn said, noting that the donated food each week ranges from 10 to 600 pounds.
Walker added that if it wasn’t for the help of dedicated volunteers, the organization “wouldn’t have gone very far.”
One of the first churches to benefit from Faith Feeds was The Rock/La Roca, now known as Embrace Church, which is located on North Limestone. The church has a Monday night ministry in which people in need from the neighborhood can come and have a warm meal, and then take home excess food that is delivered weekly from Faith Feeds. Embrace additionally delivers some of the excess food to other people in the area.
Other agencies who distribute fresh produce from Faith Feeds include Maxwell Presbyterian Church, the Hope Center, the Catholic Action Center, the Chrysalis House and the Florence Crittenden Home.
“We started with 10 (agencies), and last year we served 18,” Horn said. “(Faith Feeds) grew beyond our wildest dreams … the first year we collected about 36,000 pounds of food. Last year, it was more than 72,000 pounds of food.”
In addition to the gleaning program, Faith Feeds’ Edible Garden Series is an opportunity for people to learn gardening basics and the best practice methods of growing food in central Kentucky. The focus is different each month, with Walker and other guest speakers leading demonstrations.
“By encouraging people to grow their own food, we feel like we’re empowering them,” Horn explained. “We’re also encouraging them to plant an extra row (in their gardens) to donate to the hungry.”
Another initiative of Faith Feeds is the In-Feed program, which establishes vegetable gardens on vacant urban lots. The unused land becomes a source of nutrition for urban area residents at risk for hunger. Each year in late winter, Faith Feeds also holds an heirloom seed sale to raise funds and provide a variety of produce growing options.
Ironically, Horn doesn’t know much about gardening herself, but she knows a lot about cultivating organization.
“People laugh at me because I don’t know one vegetable from another,” she said. “My passion is helping people, and this happens to be one of those ways. For me, it’s a real feel-good activity, and from the way our volunteers have responded, it must be for them too.
“It’s a win-win-win,” she continued. “It’s a win for the grower, a win for the volunteer, and a win for the recipient. You don’t get very many situations like that.”
For more information on the many programs and initiatives under the Faith Feeds umbrella, visit www.faithfeedslex.org. The next Edible Garden Series, focusing on planning a garden using tools from the web, is 7 p.m. April 30 at Beaumont Presbyterian Church (1070 Lane Allen Rd.).