Mich. Megachurch's Community Garden Feeds Thousands

The church is typically the place where people can go to find food for the soul, but one church in Plymouth, Mich., is helping to stave off the physical hunger of those facing hard times.

NorthRidge is enlisting more than 300 volunteers to tend its 21,000-square foot garden. If the hard work pays off, it is hoping to deliver more than 15,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to area food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the summer and fall.

Senior Pastor Brad Powell says the community garden is part of the church’s effort to help people at their point of need and touch their lives in a tangible way.

“Jesus had compassion for the poor and the hungry and he wants His church to do the same. Our response to His generosity is to reach out to help those that are disadvantaged and unable to help themselves,” he said.

Four years ago, when the community garden was first started, it grew 3,000 pounds of produce. By last year, output had shot up to just under 12,000 pounds.

With the help of an army of volunteers, two master gardeners and a couple of engineers, Powell is hoping to exceed last year’s output by 3,000 pounds.

“It’s a high bar, but we think we can beat last year’s yield,” he said. “One of the strengths of the community garden is the participation of entire families. It’s a project everyone can help with.”

The church, which draws some 20,000 attendees, expects to begin harvesting in mid-July to mid-October, when the produce will be picked up twice weekly by the Detroit-based Gleaner’s Food Bank.

It’s not only fresh, home grown produce that the church is providing locals with, however. Last month, the church collected 28,000 pounds of canned and other goods through its annual food drive.

The food was packed into more than 700 boxes by 200 volunteers before being shipped out to Plymouth Salvation Army, Lighthouse Home Mission in Westland, the Detroit City Mission, Brighton-based Love Inc., and Hope Clinic in Ann Harbor.

Also, in February, NorthRidge teamed up with Feed My Starving Children to pack more than one million meals for kids in Haiti, Guatemala and Somalia.

The meals donated exceeded the amount needed so more than 200,000 extra meals were distributed among people in need in Mexico through a partner church in Laredo, Texas.

"We are a church that cares," the senior pastor added. "While I am proud of our NorthRidge family, our mission isn't to glorify ourselves, it's to glorify Christ; we most visibly evidence that love by showing compassion and care for those in need."

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