Mount Canaan Baptist holds produce giveaway

Gallery: Nourishing body and soul: Mount Canaan Baptist holds produce giveaway

IF YOU GO

› What: Produce giveaway

› Where: Mount Canaan Baptist Church, 4801 Highway 58

› When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, July 23

› Cost: Free

› Information: 423-624-4080

It took just two hours last month for 1,750 pounds of fresh fruit to be snapped up at Mount Canaan Baptist Church's first produce giveaway. The church's next community distribution is July 23, and the congregation expects numbers to top the 400 families served by the June outreach.

Mount Canaan has partnered with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank to be a distribution site for free, fresh produce once a month as part of the Produce Empowerment Program. On the fourth Saturday of each month, the food bank will send a truck filled with at least 1,750 pounds of produce, which church volunteers unload, divide among tables and ready for the public.

"We had a line waiting at the first giveaway," says Walter Hitchcock, marketing director at the church. Residents came from East Chattanooga, Washington Hills and as far north as Harrison to the Highway 58 church to fill bags with fruit, he says.

"People were saying it was a blessing to the community just having the opportunity to get fresh produce," he says. "A lot of the elderly said it was a staple they wouldn't have to buy at the store, so now they could purchase other things with their money such as prescriptions.

"Our pastor, the Rev. Ternae Jordan Sr., has given us the vision that we are to be of service to the community. Not just come on Sunday and leave," Hitchcock says.

The assortment of produce will change each month, says Elizabeth Weidenaar, the food bank's director of communications. Next Saturday's delivery will likely include potatoes, carrots and apples, she says.

Hitchcock says guests may either bag their own produce selections or church volunteers will pick for them, a service that was especially helpful to elderly or handicapped visitors unable to stand in lines, he adds. There is no limit as to how much produce a guest may take, he says, instead the church follows the rule to "let people use their common sense to take what they need and will use, not waste it."

Pastor Jordan says not only is this ministry meeting the nutritional needs of the community, it also will help the church meet its spiritual needs as well. Intake information — name, address, number in the family, church affiliation — is requested from every visitor.

"We do this intake to follow-up with them for their spiritual needs," says the pastor. "We pray with them, find out if they are involved in any ministry."

However, he stresses, access to free produce is not predicated on giving the information.

Mount Canaan is a 75-year-old congregation formerly located on North Chamberlain Avenue. About two years ago, the congregation moved from urban Chattanooga to the Highway 58 area, following its vision of renovating a vacated Kmart building into its new sanctuary.

The free produce distribution is just the latest of the church's many community ministries.

"Every week at Mount Canaan we give food vouchers and have done this for 13 years, and we assist individuals with their light bills," Jordan says. "That's how we ended up connecting with 211 at United Way."

United Way refers 211 callers seeking food assistance to Mount Canaan's Tuesday voucher distribution. Jordan also is a member of the United Way board of directors.

Since moving to Highway 58, the Mount Canaan congregation has twice hosted STUFF giveaways — an acronym for Stuff Treasures Unique For Free.

"We ask our parishioners to bring in their stuff that they've got in their attics, basements, old appliances in their garages and we give it away to the community," the pastor says. "The first one we did, we helped over 900 people. The second, on April 30, we blessed over 500 individuals.

"Mount Canaan really does have a history of working outside the walls — this is the lifeblood of Mount Canaan."

Jordan says the new partnership with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank meets a need the church recognized to provide healthy, nutritional food to the community.

"So many people are not eating healthy because they don't have access to a grocery store in their area," he says. "This is what we are doing to assist with these food deserts. We have a health and wellness ministry that is very involved in the community. We have attached this food distribution with that because nutrition is important in taking care of diabetes and high cholesterol.

"We are trying to minister not just spiritually but to the whole person."

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.


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