Fresh is Better began in 2017 to build relationships between the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Evanston and our Bellarmine community. As a foundation for those relationships, we chose home gardening and an interest in increasing access to fresh vegetables in the Evanston food desert. Today, the project is a partnership between Evanston residents and Bellarmine parishioners, living into the project’s mission to “grow good friendships and good food.”
From Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Sí: On Care for Our Common Home:
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.
Each community can take whatever it needs for subsistence from the earth’s bounty, but it also must protect the earth and ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.
From Canticle of the Creatures, St. Francis of Assisi:
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra Matre Terra, la quale ne sustenta et gouerna, et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti fior et herba.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
From the Gospel, according to John:
Remain in me as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. John 15:4-5
With the help of volunteers from Evanston, Bellarmine, and XU, this Service and Solidarity Team has built more than 80 garden beds in people’s yards. We have also created and maintained six beds at the Evanston Recreation Center; helped restore the Holloway Hope Community Garden (where we continue to work); and have organized annual events, including a Plant Sale, a Garden Tour, and a Potluck. You can find photos of our work on our Facebook page.
We give away everything we grow, either formally through the St. Andrew’s or Evanston food pantries or informally, to the friends and neighbors we have come to know.
As the project has evolved, we have focused on strengthening relationships with the project’s gardeners and the community. We provide compost, seeds, plants, and, where needed, garden advice and help with heavy tasks like turning soil.