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Five Wisconsin churches join to feed their hungry neighbors

The Presbytery of Milwaukee congregations have reaped a harvest of cooperation

from the Presbytery of Milwaukee | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Five congregations in the Presbytery of Milwaukee are working together to feed hungry people in their respective communities. (Photo by Cathy Manthei)

MILWAUKEE — Five congregations in the Presbytery of Milwaukee joined together on an initiative inspired by the Matthew 25 invitation to feed the hungry. It led to unexpected, broad collaboration.

As congregations join this week with the Presbyterian Hunger Program to celebrate Food Week of Action, the five Wisconsin churches are living into their Matthew 25 calling to feed the hungry.  This summer they built a community garden and now are harvesting the produce, distributing it to people who are experiencing hunger.

Food for the Journey is a project of Apostle Presbyterian Church in West Allis, Calvary Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee, Delafield Presbyterian Church in Delafield, Jerusalem Presbyterian Church in Wales and Kettle Moraine Presbyterian Church in Hartland.

Each of the five participating churches has something to offer for the Food for the Journey program. (Photo by Cathy Manthei)

Each church had something to share. “Food for the Journey started out as a project that none of our congregations could have pulled off on their own,” said the Rev. Nikki Blanks, pastor at Delafield. “The beauty of this is that either we were going to work collaboratively, or we weren’t going to be able to do it all.

“With each other,” Blanks said, “we have everything we need.”

The Kettle Moraine church had excess land, perfect for the 40-foot-by-24-foot raised-bed garden built for the project, and the Delafield church contributed financially. Several churches, especially the Jerusalem church, brought Master Gardeners into the planning.  The Calvary and Apostle churches act as distribution sites, sharing the bounty with urban residents of Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.  Volunteers from all churches help with the garden.

Apostle Presbyterian Church handles distribution for the Food for the Journey cooperative program. (Photo by Cathy Manthei)

It’s been transformative.  At the Delafield church, “Onw hundred percent of our newest members are involved in this garden; they see what the Spirit is doing, and they want in on it,” Blanks reports.

JP Kastner, a lead organizer, sees the same at his church. “Folks are stepping up into leadership positions because they’re interested in involvement with the produce marketplace at Calvary,” Kastner said.

To the surprise of many participants, the collaboration has gone beyond the project.

The Food for the Journey harvest has been bountiful. (Photo by Cathy Menthei)

When the Kettle Moraine church had a problem with its church sign, a church member from the Calvary church came out to fix it. The Delafield church collected books for Jerusalem’s Book Drive, and Jerusalem contributed to Delafield’s rummage sale.

In these newfound relationships, Blanks says, “the people have had so much fun, there’s talk of building more gardens next year.”

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