AVERY CO., N.C. — At an Avery County church, members are stepping up to help people struggling to afford food for their families.

What You Need To Know

  • An Avery County church is starting a community garden
  • Anyone can take whatever fruits and vegetables they need
  • Organizers said this will help with hunger in the town

Tessa Eller brought her 8-month-old daughter Olive to see a new garden popping up across the street.

She said her daughter is starting to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, so a garden is needed.

“Avery County is one of the most impoverished in North Carolina, and Elk Park is so small, there’s a lot of need here,” Eller said.

It is also a significant need due to the scarcity of fresh vegetables in the area. According to her, a lot of her neighbors walk to get food.

“They have to walk everywhere because they don’t have cars and the closest thing is Dollar General. It’s a lot of frozen foods and processed foods,” Eller explained.

She said she’s happy that Elk Park Christian Church has started a community garden, which was created by Youth Pastor Jonathan Sheppard and his youth group.

“Statistically speaking, we have around 330 households in the town limits of Elk Park, and a little over 10% in 2022 suffered from food insecurity,” Sheppard said.

An Elk Park resident, Sheppard said he’s been the youth pastor for six years. He said, years ago, practically everyone in the area grew a garden.

He described how gardens no longer exist and when he realized the extent of the need; he felt compelled to get involved. Three garden beds have since been built for the community.

“They are 4 feet wide, 12 feet long and a little over 2-feet deep,” Sheppard showed Spectrum News 1.

He mentioned that each of them can accommodate 48 plants, and he hopes that the garden not only provides food but also serves as a learning opportunity for people to do it on their own.