ELCA World Hungerhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/Advocacy, Accompaniment, and HIV/AIDS in ColombiaRyan P. Cumminghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/633http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/633<div class="ExternalClass973FFE557BBE47D696040464CA713106"><p>As many as 140,000 people in Colombia are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the United Nations.&#160; The challenges they face are significant.&#160; Because of the disease's association with sexuality, many people who are HIV-positive face prejudice, fear and discrimination.&#160; The stigma of HIV/AIDS in Colombia carries legal and medical consequences, as well.&#160; Individuals can be denied disability benefits, scorned by employers or denied medical care for their disease.</p><p>Knowing the harsh reality of stigma and the consequences it carries, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO) is committed to supporting HIV/AIDS-positive Colombians.&#160; In addition to educating Lutherans about the disease, the Asivida ministry of IELCO supports <em>Caminando Juntos</em> (&quot;walking together&quot;), a group of HIV/AIDS-positive men and women who support each other emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and legally.&#160; With the help of Rosemary Rincon, a social psychologist on staff with IELCO, <em>Caminando Juntos</em> has successfully advocated for the right to disability benefits and medical care for its members.&#160; </p><p>The ELCA accompanies its companion churches in many ways.&#160; One important form of accompaniment is support for vital ministries within local communities.&#160; Asivida – with its education, outreach, and support of <em>Caminando Juntos</em> – is just a part of the many ministries of IELCO, supported in part by gifts to ELCA World Hunger.&#160; Together, we can be part of IELCO's powerful witness and action in Colombia!</p><p>Watch the video below to hear Rosemary's powerful story! (A transcript of the video is below for readers who do not speak Spanish.)</p><p>&#160;</p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="420" height="315" src="http&#58;//www.youtube.com/embed/85LQIBWA-Qc" frameborder="0"></iframe>&#160;</div><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>TRANSCRIPT&#58;</strong></p><p>My name is Rosemary Rincon. I'm a mom. </p><p>I'm a psychologist. </p><p>I'm a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee. </p><p>I'm a woman, I'm happy <em>and I live with HIV</em>.</p><p>We usually think, &quot;It can't happen to me. This may happen to others, it happens to other people, but not to me.&quot; First off, I'm a housewife; I only have one sex partner. My boyfriend of eight years was my one and only boyfriend, my sole sex partner in my whole life… and I married him. It may affect loose women, sex workers, homosexuals, people who lead an immoral life, and the like, but not me…</p><p>And I entrusted my sexuality and my health to my husband, my partner. Perhaps my love for him prevented me from seeing myself in risk.</p><p>…I've been living with it for 14 years and it hasn't tainted my life. Instead, I think you live with more intensity, with dreams. In my opinion, living with the virus is not disabling, quite the contrary. It's a decision that changes your life but it should change it for the best.</p><p>We have an individual role to play in society. But we need to take the initiative and not just stay there like some people do. </p><p>Obviously, the easiest approach is to say, &quot;I'll die.&quot; Then you also see that time passes by, because nowadays this is a chronic, treatable disease. </p><p>So, how much time will I have to spend waiting for death? It could be 10, 15 years… by the way, it's the same time I've had it so far&#58; 14 years. Had I taken a different approach, I wouldn't be alive today and wouldn't be enjoying the privileges and opportunities I've given myself and that life has also granted me.</p><p>I think that, in a certain way, God, and even the universe have placed the right people and provided me with the means to help me move forward. And I think he does this for all of us. We may live in the last corner of the world, but if we face life with a positive outlook and our dreams overpower our circumstances…</p><p>You should also start your own research, give yourself the opportunity…. that the virus is not transmitted by casual contact, that we need to take some precautions, that we need to be responsible, but also, the fact that being HIV positive does not restrict my entitlement to maternity, to love and be loved, and many other dreams. The means and the appropriate conditions already exist, see? </p><p>I gave myself the opportunity, just as any other woman with HIV could; the opportunity of becoming a mother… obviously educating myself…</p><p>There's the support from the interdisciplinary team. They provided me with integral care and all the appropriate conditions… and here's the result, my daughter. She's now three and totally HIV free… and we keep striving just like any other family in our country. </p><p>Whether or not we are HIV positive, we are women in essence… and I think that this is what makes us valuable. It's that difference. </p><p>It works the same for guys. But we make a perfect team, men and women. And we need to respect each other and love each other in spite of the differences. </p><p>Women with HIV or without HIV, we're equally valuable.</p><p><strong>VISUAL TEXT</strong></p><p>I'm a mom</p><p>I'm a psychologist</p><p>I'm a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee…</p><p>&#160;I'm a woman, I'm happy and I live with HIV</p><p>&quot;It can't happen to me&quot;</p><p>&quot;I only had one sex partner&quot;</p><p>&quot;It happens to people who lead an immoral life&quot;</p><p>&quot;My love for him prevented me from seeing myself in risk&quot;</p><p>Rosemary has lived with the HIV virus for 14 years. Her husband and only sex partner caused her to become infected…</p><p>&quot;You live with more intensity, with dreams&quot;</p><p>&quot;Living with the HIV virus is not disabling&quot;</p><p>&quot;The easiest approach is to say, 'I'll die'&quot;</p><p>&quot;Life has given me privileges and opportunities&quot;</p><p>&quot;We have to give ourselves the opportunity&quot;</p><p>&quot;I can love, be loved, live&quot;</p><p>&quot;I gave myself the opportunity&quot;</p><p>&quot;My daughter is HIV negative&quot;</p><p>LIVING POSITIVELY</p></div>09/26/2014An introduction: Gina Tonn, Lutheran Volunteer Corps Gina Tonnhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/632http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/632<div class="ExternalClass3B13E406F48D49E88237033AA5EC62C0"><p>​​Gina Tonn</p><p>September 17, 2014</p><p>&#160;</p><p>Greetings, ELCA World Hunger blog readers! My name is Gina Tonn, and I am happy to introduce myself as the newest member of the<img alt="Blog pic.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/Blog%20pic.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;98px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;right;" /> dynamic ELCA World Hunger team in Chicago! I will be serving as a Program Assistant for the next year through a placement with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). I am honored to be the first LVC member to work with ELCA World Hunger and am excited about all the year has in store. I will be working with Education and Constituent Engagement.&#160; </p><p>In addition to my work with ELCA World Hunger, my year with LVC will consist of living in intentional community with four other corps members, learning about and working for peace with justice, and striving to live simply and sustainably. I anticipate embracing all the challenges and learning opportunities I will face this year. </p><p>I come to Chicago from Brooklyn Park, MN – a suburb of Minneapolis – where I have lived my whole life, with the exception of residing in Northfield, MN, for the last four years while attending St. Olaf College. I graduated from St. Olaf in May 2014 with majors in economics and religion. I sang with The St. Olaf Cantorei and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities, including working with the Student Activities Committee and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations. </p><p>My commitment to social justice became more than an underlying inclination during the summer of 2013 when I interned at the University of St. Thomas Interprofessional Center's Legal Services Clinic with the Immigration Law Practice Group. During my internship, I developed a deeper appreciation for how important it is to fight for justice by listening to other people's stories and working in partnership to improve quality of life. My experience there is a large part of what drew me to a year of service with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps after graduation. I'm grateful to be with ELCA World Hunger because of the holistic nature and integrity of the work this organization does in relationships with companion synods and local partners. Furthermore, I believe in our baptismal vocation to love and serve our neighbors. I am energized by the opportunity to live into that vocation even more fully this year – in the workplace and in my intentional community. </p><p>Some fun facts about me&#58;</p><ul><li>While at St. Olaf I was a costume sewing assistant for our international dance troupe – I know my way around a sequin!</li><li>I've been a summer soccer referee for ten years.</li><li>My hobbies include running, photography, and singing hymns in four-part harmony. </li><li>I love to read. I especially enjoy popular non-fiction, like the work of Malcolm Gladwell or a good memoir. </li><li>One of my favorite foods is coleslaw. While on a road trip with some friends this past year I ordered coleslaw in just about every city we visited, so I like to think myself a bit of an aficionado!</li></ul><p>&#160;</p><p><em>Gina Tonn is a Program Assistant with ELCA World Hunger. This is her first post to the ELCA World Hunger blog and she looks forward to sharing many more stories with the ELCA World Hunger community over the next year. </em></p></div>09/17/2014241 miles. 7 days. This is the Hunger RideGuest blog author: Matt Bishophttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/631http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/631<div class="ExternalClass358F7E98C9BA40CCBF2414CDFE2AD9C6"><p>​<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">241 miles. 7 days. A couple of bicycles. This is The Hunger Ride&#58;&#160; </span> <span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">Feeding People, Feeding Souls.</span></p><p>Many of us will never know what it means to be chronically hungry. And yet <a href="http&#58;//elca.org/hunger">too many of us will</a>. A lot of us would like to suppose that, if only more people knew about this and thought about this, then we'd get something done! But there's another story to tell—the story of all of those who <em>do</em> answer the call to serve, and are working hard every day to feed their neighbors and to help their neighbors feed themselves. This story goes untold too often, so the Northwestern Minnesota Synod created The Hunger Ride.</p><p>Educating people about hunger and poverty is a trivial chore if we don't give those people somewhere to use the energy these stories create. So six <a href="http&#58;//nwmnsynod.org/meet-the-hunger-ambassadors/">Hunger Ambassadors</a> suited up, stretched out, and peddled their way across the synod to connect people to the stories of the hungry and the stories of those who accompany them. The riders stopped at events along the way, planned by hosting communities, to raise awareness about hunger locally and abroad, and to start conversations.</p><p>See for yourself&#58;​ ​​​​​ </p> <iframe width="400" height="225" src="http&#58;//player.vimeo.com/video/96105978" frameborder="0"></iframe> <p><a href="http&#58;//vimeo.com/96105978">HungerRide</a> from <a href="http&#58;//vimeo.com/user3198684">Hope Deutscher</a> on <a href="https&#58;//vimeo.com/">Vimeo</a>.</p><p> Lin​da Eickman, a licensed social worker working in Christian resource development and one of the Hunger Ambassadors, said that the best part was meeting so many new people. &quot;[I] loved discovering the great services and organizations we have in our communities that support our hungry families.&quot; </p><p>The Hunger Ride was the synod's opportunity to celebrate with those who strive to relieve the weight of hunger and poverty in its communities and across the world, including the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, Meals on Wheels (through the local Wadena Area Seniors Bag Program), and—of course—ELCA World Hunger. Or as Pr. Frank Johnson, another Hunger Ambassador put it, &quot;we were able to string together the stories of organic farmers in Sebeka, the hungry and homeless at Peoples' Church in Bemidji, the youth volunteering at Calvary of Park Rapids, and the students in Wadena who were growing food for their own school lunches.&quot;</p><p>But the real power of The Hunger Ride comes in Frank's subsequent realization. &quot;These are not independent efforts; they are people working together, who often do not even know that one another exist, but they have a common purpose. These are people concerned about eating and eating well.&quot;</p><p>Frank made a more sophisticated reflection than is possible here on his blog—<a href="http&#58;//pawntoking4.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-hunger-ride-recap.html">check it out</a>.</p><p>The Hunger Ride culminated with a day ride around Moorhead in anticipation of Synod Assembly. Riders stopped at congregations along the way for refreshment and to learn more generally about hunger issues and ELCA World Hunger as a response. Finally, those who were left, including the Hunger Ambassadors, rode their bikes right up to the stage at synod assembly to share some of the stories from the week prior.</p><p>The Hunger Ride brought with it a few lessons. First, it's fun and life-giving. Lisa Winter, another Hunger Ambassador, said &quot;I feel like I received a special grace of the Holy Spirit on this ride.&quot; Second, it's hard to measure the impact of educating people. This isn't a new lesson, but the buzz around the entire event was contagious. While the goal was to raise awareness for hunger issues, build recognition for those responding in our communities and give people an opportunity to connect to those responses, the results of the offerings along the route are suggestive. By the end of the week, The Hunger Ride raised over $15,000 for hunger and poverty ministries, including ELCA World Hunger. Well, sort of. This total doesn't count one congregation, Calvary Lutheran Church in Perham, which used The Hunger Ride as the focus of its Lenten hunger fundraising. It's nearly impossible to attribute particular dollars to The Hunger Ride, but the bottom line is the same&#58;&#160; another $13,000 for ELCA World Hunger.</p><p>And the final lesson is perhaps the most important of all. Will there be a Hunger Ride next year? Lisa said most eloquently what everyone agreed&#58;&#160; &quot;Absolutely!&quot;</p><p> &#160;<img alt="hr20.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/hr20.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" />&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; ​​<br><img alt="hr4.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/hr4.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /></p></div>08/21/2014A Summer Farewell Teri Muellerhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/630http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/630<div class="ExternalClassAF3F01039237401EA14A065975B75358"><p>​The fleeting nature of time never ceases to amaze me. I am having a hard time grasping the fact that I ended my internship at the close of last week. The past eleven weeks have passed very quickly and have contained so many meaningful experiences! </p><p>Prior to coming to the churchwide office, I had rarely focused specifically on the issue of hunger in our world. Sure, I had volunteered at food banks, collected cans for food drives, participated in fasting activities, and served meals at shelters, but my experiences were solely surface level. They satisfied me but did not truly engage me. I could volunteer and feel good about myself and then return to my life slightly more grateful for the blessings I had been bestowed with. </p><p>Working as the ELCA World Hunger Education intern allowed me to bridge experiences with information. I&#160;was able to better connect the statistics and data of hunger to real life through looking into resources. I&#160;began to realize the importance of educational exposure that makes people think critically about social issues in our world. I&#160;was able&#160;to do research and learn more about what hunger and poverty directly relate to. I&#160;was challenged through trying to communicate information in a concise manner through working on blog posts and potential resources. I had the opportunity to journey on educational field trips to <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/625"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">Bethel New Life</span></a> and <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/629"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">Cross Lutheran Church/Alice's Garden</span></a>. </p><p>As I prepared to leave, I found myself asking the question <em>What does my internship mean for me as I move forward? </em>I am still figuring out the answer to that. I obviously learned a lot. I feel more passionate about issues of hunger and poverty. I will definitely look for ways to be involved with hunger work in the future. The rest is rather uncertain, but I am sure that I will continue to realize ways this internship has affected me as time progresses. &#160;</p><p>My time working with ELCA World Hunger at the churchwide office has been an incredibly beneficial experience. Though I was sad to say goodbye, I look forward to the coming adventures that God brings my way during my final year at Wartburg and the somewhat daunting time after graduation. I take comfort in Jesus' final words to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew, &quot;I am with you always, even until the end of the age.&quot; (Matthew 28&#58;20) Thank you to everyone who has been part of my journey at the ELCA and God Bless! <br><br><em>Teri Mueller is an intern with ELCA World Hunger. This is her final post for the summer.</em></p><p>Would you like to subscribe to the ELCA World Hunger blog?&#160; Click <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/blogs/worldhunger"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">here</span></a> to enter your email address on the homepage. </p></div>08/18/2014Milwaukee Ministries: Visiting Cross Lutheran Church and Alice's GardenTeri Muellerhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/629http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/629<div class="ExternalClass88830A3ABEA14CDBB1357663B83B40CE"><p>​Many powerful and meaningful ministries are flourishing across the United States. This past Fr<img alt="Compressed Milwaukee Intern field trip.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/Compressed%20Milwaukee%20Intern%20field%20trip.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;262px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;right;" />iday, the interns at the ELCA Churchwide office had the opportunity to hear from two Milwaukee-based ministries on our second and final field trip of the summer. Joe Young, ELCA Program Director of Community Development, described the trip as &quot;an opportunity to integrate what is happening at the Churchwide level with what is actually happening on the ground.&quot; I was really excited about the trip because of my interest in community gardening and social ministry organizations. We visited <a href="http&#58;//crosslutheranmilwaukee.org/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">Cross Lutheran Church</span></a> and <a href="http&#58;//alicesgardenmilwaukee.com/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">Alice's Garden</span></a>, two organizations that are doing really incredible work. </p><p>We arrived at Cross Lutheran Church in the late morning and were greeted by Pastor Michelle Townsend de López. She talked to us about the history of the church, the ministries of the church, and the city of Milwaukee. Cross is an urban congregation located in the heart of the city. Originally founded as a Missouri Synod church, Cross has German and Polish roots that date back 144 years. <img alt="Compressed Pastor Michelle talking.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/Compressed%20Pastor%20Michelle%20talking.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;304px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;left;" />Cross has a rich tradition of embracing diversity and is known as &quot;one of the most diverse congregations in not only Wisconsin, but also the entire U.S.&quot; according to Pastor Michelle. During the 20<sup>th</sup> century, Cross was seen as a safe place for mixed race couples in the midst of segregation and as a shelter for refugees fleeing oppression from countries in conflict like Bosnia, Somalia and Sudan. In 1984, Cross was one of the first churches to become <a href="http&#58;//www.reconcilingworks.org/"><span lang="EN" style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">Reconciled in Christ</span></a>, meaning that they welcome and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples and individuals. Their decision to openly embrace so many forms of diversity has been contentious at times, but now diversity is a given at Cross. Inclusivity is a key focus of the church in all that they do. We were all encouraged to remember the importance of welcoming and including others as we move forward with our lives.</p><p>Numerous services and programs are run through Cross Lutheran Church as part of their outward, community focus. Pastor Michelle gave us a tour of the church and explained many of the ministries that occur. The Bread of Healing Empowerment Ministry provides a hot meal every Wednesday, operates a food pantry and hosts a Bible study. The Bread of Healing Clinic offers free services to uninsured individuals and serves over 3600 people each year. The church additionally is home to the Bridges Tutoring Program, a job training program, yoga classes, three different church choirs (Cross Youth Praise Team, Community Gospel Choir, and Cross Praise Choir) and more. Over 2000 people come through the church every week! </p><p>Funds from ELCA Domestic Hunger Grants have helped the church with its various social ministry programs. Cross has plans for expansion in the near future. The ministries and programs of the church are simply outgrowing the space. Visiting Cross really helped us make connections to work at the churchwide office in a variety of different ways. Ben Skelton, an intern with the Mission Investment Fund (MIF), explained how the visit connected to what he has experienced through working in MIF. He explained, &quot;Working with the Mission Investment Fund, I was able to see how supporting a congregation like this with a loan would allow them to make expansions to their facility. This would ensure that they can continue to grow and have a positive impact on a community that is in desperate need of it.&quot;</p><p><img alt="Compressed Venus talks under shelter.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/Compressed%20Venus%20talks%20under%20shelter.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;298px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;right;" />After a very informative morning at Cross Lutheran Church, we continued on to Alice's Garden and met with the Executive Director, Ms. Venice Williams. The garden has undergone a lot of positive change in recent years under her direction. Ms. Williams has a strong passion for using the earth's resources and explained, &quot;I came to farming and urban agriculture because I was unhappy with how we feed people as the church.&quot; She emphasized that there was not enough responsibility, accountability or harvesting of people's talents. She wanted a different model that helped enable people so she invested heavily in Alice's Garden. It was really touching and inspiring to hear Ms. Williams talk about the positive impact of the garden on the community. She described Alice's Garden as &quot;the best blessing outside of family or spouse that I've ever had.&quot;</p><p><img alt="Compressed Venus talks in garden.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/Compressed%20Venus%20talks%20in%20garden.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;186px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;left;" />Alice's garden occupies 2.2 acres of land and is described as both an urban farm and a community garden. A number of plots are available for community members to rent out to grow their own plants and produce. &#160;However, so much more than food is harvested from the garden! Alice's Garden is a cultural haven for people as 20+ ethnicities are represented among the gardeners. There is an herbal product line, Alice Garden Healing Herbs, that is produced. Forty-seven young people ages 14-24 have found work in the garden over the summer due to Milwaukee's Earn and Learn program. Nine caterers and food trucks use food from the garden. Yoga is held in the garden twice a week.&#160; The list could go on and on. </p><p>On a personal note, I was really touched by the thriving community garden in the <img alt="Compressed Milwaukee Intern group 2.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/Browse/Compressed%20Milwaukee%20Intern%20group%202.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;274px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;right;" />midst of the city. I did not grow up on a farm, but I am from a rural community in Iowa. My family had a garden where we grew varied produce like strawberries, squash, and tomatoes. There is something about growing one's own food that warms my heart. Ms. Williams talked a lot about how Alice's Garden taps into the community resources and gives people an outlet to help themselves. Alice's Garden is a beautiful gift to the community, but community members are also a beautiful gift to Alice's Garden. It is a partnership between people and the land that is far too often ignored. </p><p>Cross Lutheran Church and Alice's Garden are two amazing community partners of the ELCA that promote social justice in Milwaukee. It was a true blessing to hear about their work and see the context of their ministries. I have no doubt that they will continue to do great things in the years to come. </p><p><em>Teri Mueller is an intern with ELCA World Hunger.</em></p><p>Would you like to subscribe to the ELCA World Hunger blog?&#160; Click <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/blogs/worldhunger"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">here</span></a> to enter your email address on the homepage. </p><p>&#160;</p></div>08/15/2014'Tis the Season for Fresh ProduceTeri Muellerhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/628http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/ELCAWorldHunger/628<div class="ExternalClass300039B4C2F3439A849A933C5D7B14D8"><p>​Summer is now in full swing, and with it comes the flourishing of many farmers' markets and community gardens all across the country. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States currently has over 8,100 farmers' markets of varying sizes in operation. Their <a href="http&#58;//search.ams.usda.gov/FARMERSMARKETS/default.aspx"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">online directory</span></a> provides people with an easy way to determine where nearby markets are and what produce is typically offered. Community gardens also are in season during the summer months. Because of farmers' markets and community gardens, many people are able to access fresh and healthy produce. </p><p>One may wonder, <em>what's all the hype about farmers' markets and buying local? </em>&#160;There are actually <a href="http&#58;//www.nutrition.gov/farmers-markets"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">numerous perks</span></a> to the markets that attract a variety of different people. &#160;One of the most frequently referenced positives is the flavor of fruits and vegetables because they are picked in season and not overly processed. Many people also like that farmers' markets support local economies and encourage community. Free samples from some vendors attract the hungry and curious, too.</p><p>Another appeal of farmers' markets is that families of different income levels are able to shop there and purchase fresh produce. As of May 2014, <a href="http&#58;//www.fns.usda.gov/ebt/learn-about-snap-benefits-farmers-markets"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">2,696 markets accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits</span></a>. Utilizing SNAP helps ease food insecurity and is a benefit to multiple parties. It brings more customers to the market, which is good for business, and helps families to eat fresh food without traveling too far. While the price of produce is often lower at supermarkets or grocery stores (at least in the Midwest according to a <a href="http&#58;//time.com/2838629/the-pros-and-cons-of-food-stamps-at-farmers-markets/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">recent article</span></a> published by <em>Time</em>), farmers' market advocates still stand by the importance of the markets for low-income families. Markets can increase the appeal of a variety of fruits and vegetables and provide inspiration to eat a wholesome diet. </p><p>Like farmers' markets, community gardens also increase access to fresh, healthy produce and provide a sense of community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified many <a href="http&#58;//www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/healthyfood/community.htm"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">physical and mental health benefits</span></a> of community gardens. Beyond the obvious increase in availability of fresh produce, gardens also beautify empty lots, encourage physical activity, revitalize neighborhoods and bring people together. </p><p>Gifts to ELCA World Hunger have helped provide many churches and organizations with Domestic Hunger Grants to start, continue, and/or enhance community garden projects. Trinity Gardens is one such project in Santa Barbara, CA. The project is run by Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and has both a communal garden and individual garden plots. Each week, around 150-200 pounds of food from the communal garden is donated to community non-profits and community members who are in need. (Click <a href="http&#58;//telcsb.org/TrinityGardens.html"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">here</span></a> for more information about the project.) </p><p>Another example of an organization supported by gifts to ELCA World Hunger is the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Soldotna, AK. The food bank's &quot;Hoop House and Garden&quot; produced 1,860 pounds of produce in 2013, and they have already harvested 69 pounds of produce as of June 12, 2014. ELCA World Hunger supports an educational component of the garden that seeks to help individuals living in poverty to plant container gardens and grow their own produce. (Click <a href="http&#58;//www.kpfoodbank.org/garden--hoop-house.html"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">here</span></a> to see pictures from the Hoop House and Garden). Trinity Gardens and the Hoop House and Garden are just two examples of the over 20 garden projects supported by grants from ELCA World Hunger.</p><p>Farmers' markets and community gardens both provide communities with fresh produce and assist with neighborhood development. Taking advantage of nearby resources is beneficial to all people and is an important step towards alleviating hunger. Local initiatives like farmers' markets and community gardens help people think about where their food is coming from. They personalize the food gathering experience through providing fresh and tasty produce to individuals and families all across the country. </p><p><em>Teri Mueller is an intern with ELCA World Hunger.</em></p><p>Would you like to subscribe to the ELCA World Hunger blog?&#160; Click <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/blogs/worldhunger"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">here</span></a> to enter your email address on the homepage. </p></div>08/14/2014