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Urban farming combats food deserts in South Side community

South Side Family Farms is working hard to provide nutritious foods to the underserved.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With inflation and the rising cost of food, a ministry in the South Side is bringing urban farming to residents to help combat food deserts and to give residents a sustainable option to grow their farms.

Rev. Aaron Hopkins and his wife Antoinette from the Family Missionary Baptist Church are passionate about planting seeds of ministry beyond just their church. 

They created the South Side Family Farms alongside Wilson Avenue, funded by local grants, where staff and volunteers help to grow nutritious food for the underserved community.

"I call it ministry in the community, very much trying to uplift lives, creating avenues for people to advance their life into different areas, always to find encouragement,” said Rev. Hopkins. “The gardens address social food justice, the fact that we are a food desert. The fact that the corner stores that are limited do not have shelf space for fresh produce.”

Hopkins said the nearest grocery store is two miles away. The community gardens are filled with fresh tomatoes, kale, green peppers, and more, all in an effort to combat food insecurity.

Bob Leighty is an advisor for the farm who helps secure the grants that keep the gardens running.

“People only have so much money, and even though the price of the seeds are going up, it's much cheaper if can grow some of the stuff yourself, and it tastes better, and it's fulfilling in the process,” said Leighty.

The crops go to volunteers, staff, local farmers markets, food banks and the gardens serve as a tool for education.

“We invite the youth into the garden, they get hands-on training with growing, being able to plant and being able to take care of the maintenance of the garden,” Antoinette said.

They are teaching young people business skills, selling at the local farmer’s markets.

“We also teach them about budgeting, being able to handle money, being able to sell their product, being able to market their product,” Antoinette said.

Food boxes are also delivered to 90+ households each season, helping those who don’t have access to transportation.

“It's just not in the fruits and vegetables we grow, but it's in the lives we impact,” said Rev. Hopkins.

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