For these parishioners, their gardens grow to stem hunger among the needy

Peppers grow in the garden near St. Ann Church in Arlington, Va., July 16, 2020. The garden is part of a parish initiative to provide fresh produce to the needy in the area. (CNS photo/Ann M. Augherton, Catholic Herald)

By Zoey Maraist 
Catholic News Service

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — A bed of leafy greens grows in the shadow of St. Ann School in Arlington.

Sunflowers and squash blossoms bloom a stone’s throw from St. James Church in Falls Church, Virginia. Bean plants sprout from the soil besides the parking lot of Church of the Nativity in Burke, Virginia.

The grounds of parishes are growing food for the poor, and occasionally a hungry priest or two. Thanks to the summer sun and diligent watering, gardeners are starting to see the fruits, and vegetables, of their labors.

The garden at Christ House in Alexandria, Virginia, has produced dozens of pounds of vegetables for distribution and for the residents of the men’s shelter, said Sister Aniliza (Annie) P. Juan, a member of the  Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette, who is Christ House’s volunteer coordinator. The lush garden, decorated with statues of saints and gnomes, is maintained by Sister Annie and a few volunteers. They’ve already harvested lettuce, peppers and lots of cucumbers.

It’s the first year for the St. James Creation Care Garden and the Nativity St. Fiacre Garden, named for the patron saint of vegetable growers. Gardeners of both parishes plan to donate the produce to those in need.

St. Ann volunteers used to donate their produce to the Arlington Food Assistance Center, but due to pandemic produce restrictions at the center, they now give to the weekly food distribution at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington.

In the past, Laura Ryan managed the St. Ann garden, but her daughter Emma has taken charge this year. They’re growing zucchini, okra, Brussels sprouts, herbs and more. “When you can’t do anything else, why not garden?” asked Ryan.

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Maraist is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

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