Church Provides Bushels of Blessings
For five years, Bushels of Blessings, a ministry of First Assembly of God in Carneys Point, New Jersey, has run a 21st century gleaning ministry where they have gathered produce from local farmers and distributed it to food pantries and organizations in the Delaware Valley at no charge.
In the 2015-2016 harvest season, Bushels of Blessings collected 215,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution. Volunteers go out to local farms and sort through second produce, store it in vegetable baskets, and bring the food back to the distribution center. Here the food is sorted and prepared for pick up by organizations for their food pantries.
“Two hundred and fifteen thousand pounds of produce will provide approximately 1,100,000 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables," says Executive Director Michele Montemurno.
Six years ago, Montemurno was unemployed and looking to God for guidance. “I was praying about what God wanted me to do next, during three months of fasting and praying, God began to lay out a step-by-step vision of gleaning for those in need,” she explains.
Montemurno approached Senior Pastor Keith Holt about the church starting up the Bushels of Blessings Ministry. “I believe it was what God had called her to do and I sent her out to do a little more research,” Holt says. “We have embarked on a remarkable way to meet the physical and spiritual needs of our communities through this ministry.”
At first, Montemurno was concerned that local farmers would be unwilling to donate their produce that didn’t make it to market.
“To my surprise, the response and support from our local farmers has been tremendous,” she says. “The first year, we started with four farms.” This year, 9 to 12 Salem and Gloucester County farms will participate in the program.
Dante Spina Jr. of Spina Farms is a strong supporter of the effort. “Finally, a group of dedicated people are willing to filter through our perfectly edible sort outs and turn that into many wonderful meals for those who are less fortunate,” he says.
Last year, 39 organizations were provided with fresh produce and fruit from the Bushels of Blessings Ministry. They come from all over the Delaware Valley to fill their food pantries.
“(Bushels of Blessings) has been a blessing to many communities by supplying nourishment needed so that people can obtain the proper food for a healthy diet,” says Bishop John Gaines from Faith Chapel Outreach Ministry.
Paula Corkum, director of Hands of Love Food Pantry, says, “Because of Bushels of Blessings, we are able to help so many people, especially our seniors, who may not have enough money to purchase fresh vegetables for themselves.”
Once a month, Harvest Time Worship Center makes a pickup from the ministry to supply their food bank, which provides food for approximately 150 individuals and families. They routinely pick up 30 to 40 bushels of farm produce.
“Bushels of Blessings has given our congregation the opportunity to both receive and be a conduit in sharing the harvest that has been shared with us,” says Associate Pastor Linda Garrison. “The ministry of Bushels of Blessings has been a delight for our people.”
Starting the third week of May and ending the third week of September, Bushels of Blessings volunteers go to the farms five days a week and gather the produce throughout the harvest season. The days of distribution are Tuesday and Friday.
However, Montemurno says the ministry still has room for growth and continues to seek additional volunteers. “Last year, due to lack of volunteer resources, we had to stop gleaning in August, which left about 150,000 pounds of food uncollected in the fields,” she says.
One solution for the volunteer needs, Montemurno believes, is for other churches looking for a short-term summer mission trip to consider “sharing the harvest” through assisting Bushels of Blessings in gathering and preparing produce for distribution. “We would love to have you come be part of changing communities and lives for Jesus,” she says.
For more information about Bushels of Blessings, email: Bushelsofblessings1@gmail.com.