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St. John Missionary Baptist Church’s (MBC) House of Hope food pantry, located in one of North St. Louis City’s most impoverished zip codes, provides much-needed food to approximately 517 families, plus a local daycare, high school and men’s shelter. Through the generosity of M Property Services Chairman Paul McKee and his wife Midge, the food pantry provides fresh vegetables grown on three vacant lots that McKee’s NorthSide Regeneration development is leasing to the church for just $1 per year.
“Mr. McKee has been an advocate of our food pantry since its founding in 2016 when he first leased us land, then last week when he offered us another lot to further expand our community garden,” said House of Hope Operations Manager Andrea Carson. “He realizes that the people in this community are very impoverished and he wants to help. His efforts to improve their quality of life by letting us use that ground next to our church for our garden is greatly appreciated, and we are looking forward to future projects with Mr. McKee and NorthSide Regeneration.”
Vegetables grown on the land include tomatoes, lettuce, turnip greens, squash, kale, okra, cabbage, peppers, melons, collard greens and asparagus. The garden is managed by Deacon Willie Boykin and his crew of volunteers. Residents also participate in the community garden by purchasing garden beds from the church. Gardeners pay $15 for a patch of land, seeds and plants for a garden, which they must maintain, and in return they give the food pantry 10 percent of whatever they produce, and they get to keep the rest.
The church also teaches participating youth about the different vegetables, how to garden, cook recipes and eat a healthy diet. On Wednesdays, residents are invited to “shop” for free at the food pantry for homegrown vegetables from the garden and canned goods, meats, dry goods and toiletries donated by Whole Foods, St. Louis Area Foodbank, Operation Food Search and others.
“Community gardens are a sign of hope for a neighborhood, plus they are the perfect place for folks to gather and work together to grow healthy food that they need,” said McKee. “The church and its food pantry should be commended for their efforts and resourcefulness. NorthSide Regeneration is proud to be a part of their efforts.”
Since its founding, the food pantry has provided enough food to prepare more than 600,000 meals. For more information about the House of Hope food pantry, contact Andrea Carson at email@example.com or 314-616-4717.