The Artist Creating Urban Farms to Feed Philadelphia

Posted on Oct 18 2018 - 5:57pm by UOG

“Not many churches can boast their own Garden of Eden, but South Philadelphia’s historic Union Baptist Church (UBC) can. When Loretta Lewis and other veteran congregants of UBC opened a soup kitchen 20 years ago, they made a solemn pledge: “We just vowed that we’re not going feed people anything that we wouldn’t eat or feed our families,” she says. “The people who come are used to eating substandard food, but here they have never had substandard food.”

The soup kitchen volunteers have always prepared for the weekly Friday luncheon by shopping for and cooking food in an industrial kitchen in the church’s basement, adjacent to a dining room with cloth-covered tables, where people from nearby shelters are welcome to enjoy a free, nutritious meal.

And for the past year, sourcing fresh vegetables—often a big challenge for the church—has been easy. The soup kitchen’s pantry is now supplemented by hyper-local produce, harvested the same day from a new garden in a previously underused plot next door to the church.

Meei Ling Ng, an artist and urban grower who lives nearby, began a collaboration with the church a year and a half ago to develop what they’ve jointly called the UBC Garden of Eden. “I want to promote ‘grow food where you live,’” Ng says. “That’s always my project title, everywhere. And ‘provide fresh, healthy food to the needy, to the homeless.’ It benefits the rest of the community, too, through educating how to grow.”


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