The vegetable garden at the First Presbyterian Church of La Grange lines the north side of the church parking lot on Wednesday September 13. 2023 | Todd Bannor

The First Presbyterian Church in La Grange helps combat food insecurity in Brookfield with its Grace Garden.

It supplies its fruit and vegetables only to local food banks. The Share Food Share Love Food Pantry is its biggest recipient.

First Presbyterian started gardening 10 years ago and only supplied to the First Baptist Church of La Grange. 

At that time, Grace Seeds Ministry, a nonprofit, reached out to the First Presbyterian Church and asked if they would be willing to grow food to supply food local pantries. The need for meals locally is great. According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate for Cook County is 9.2%

The church agreed. Volunteers started to use a square-foot gardening method to grow more harvest to meet the demands of the community. The square-foot gardening method is a type of raised-bed gardening method that permits one to plant in 4×4-foot blocks instead of traditional rows. Different crops are planted in different blocks according to their size.

There are seven members of the team that work year-round organizing the seeds.  The First Presbyterian Church also works with children at the church and the kids help with planting the seeds in March. 

Olivia Hein, a member of First Presbyterian Church of La Grange, works alongside a team of volunteers on the church’s 10 raised garden beds they have created.

“When the pandemic came, I started to become involved in this church when food insecurity skyrocketed,” she said.

The garden is harvested on Tuesday mornings and gives its food to the Share Food Share Love Food Pantry for its Tuesday evening pantry pickups, as well as harvest on Friday evenings for their Saturday morning pantry pick up. 

“Since we harvest so much for the month of August, we search online what other pantries are open that we can deliver to,” Hein said. 

Hein emphasizes this is a great way to help those in need while providing a hands-on approach of growing and giving food. When it came to naming the garden the team really liked the name Grace as they thought it was welcoming and projected the values of love, kindness and everyone is welcomed. 

The month of August is when The Grace Garden yields its biggest harvest of the season. 

“In the month of August, we try to give the food to the pantries on the day we harvest them so customers are getting the most fresh organic produce as possible,” Hein said.

“The food we produce is all organic. The soil is organic. It is not only a service to the community but we also try to care for all of the earth. It is an overarching philosophy,” she added.