Hoop House to Help Feed Fletcher Families
The food pantry at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher will soon see a greater variety of vegetables thanks to a hoop house constructed in time for the growing season.
The hoop house is much like a greenhouse and will provide a better environment for vegetables like tomatillos and peppers. While a greenhouse has climate control abilities like ventilation and heating units, a hoop house uses plastic laid over hoops to create a warmer climate inside to extend the growing season by up to two months.
"It allows us to start a different variety of vegetables from seedlings. Many of our neighbors who come seeking assistance are from Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and they expressed interest in vegetables from those regions," said the Rev. J. Clarkson, rector of Calvary, Fletcher.
The food pantry at Calvary sees about 120 families each week, an increase from the average of 70 families a week in 2022. From January through March of 2023, the pantry served almost 1,400 families.
Calvary began growing its garden to stock the food pantry in 2021 on an area of the church property called the Lord's Acre. After seeing a co-op of Latina farmers using a hoop house to grow vegetables, the church was inspired to build one for the pantry.
Since the pantry started in 2009, food has been distributed weekly on Saturdays, but there's much more to the effort. Through the help of nearby churches like Lutheran Church of the Nativity, Fletcher United Methodist Church, and local civic organizations, the food pantry at Calvary is a hub for community service. Those who come have opportunities for eye screenings, blood pressure and glucose checks, as well as connections to services like NC 211.
"There's a lack of services here because much of that is concentrated in Hendersonville and Asheville. People with food insecurity here don't have a lot of options. We always want to help in a way that affirms the dignity of those who come," Clarkson said.
Chef Martha Vining, a parishioner at Calvary, uses food in the pantry to provide cooking demonstrations twice a month during the Saturday distributions. Visitors can try a sample, pick up the recipe, and get the food items they need for the recipe from the pantry.
"We don't just fill up a box and hand it to them," Clarkson said. "We invite them to shop for what they need."
Chef Vining is also regularly featured on the Channel 13 WLOS cooking segment, Carolina Kitchen. Her segments are filmed at the pantry, all with food available at the Saturday distribution.
Clarkson said he regularly recognizes neighbors who come to the food pantry at church services.
A special service to dedicate the hoop house is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Calvary with a liturgy for a rogation day, music, and fresh food. RSVP to email@example.com.