[Press Release] New Communion is a new interfaith organization with the goal of enhancing community relationships and diminishing the impacts of hunger and food insecurity in Winston-Salem, NC. New Communion currently serves thirteen Winston-Salem neighborhoods that are determined to be at a higher risk of poverty, and thereby hunger, by the Place Matters initiative of the United Way of Forsyth County.
Recognizing that poverty in Winston-Salem has increased by 70% over the last decade, one in three children and one in five adults in Winston-Salem live in poverty, New Communion addresses instances of under-employment and unemployment as well as healthy living. Since Winston-Salem’s increase in the number of people living in concentrated poverty has ranked the city seventh out of 100 metro areas, 62,590 people are food insecure in Forsyth County, and, of those, 31% do not qualify for SNAP benefits, there is much work to be done.
Deeply moved by the extreme needs in her new home, Rev. Monica Banks, a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Divinity, founded New Communion in 2016, with First Christian Church of Winston-Salem acting as its fiscal agent. Wake Forest University continues to support New Communion. Fresh produce is often available due to New Communion’s partnership with Campus Kitchen, a nationwide initiative to save unused produce items from campus dining facilities supported at Wake Forest. New Communion and Campus Kitchen have forged a fruitful relationship.
In December of 2016, the leadership of New Communion realized that the work of food justice and reconciliation through Table experience, is best done via partnership. Rev. David Harrison joined Rev. Banks as co-director of New Communion effective January 1, 2017.
One of the ways New Communion is working toward alleviating food insecurity in Winston-Salem is the utilization of a mobile market and pantry that meets people in their neighborhoods. During distributions, neighbors filter by, choosing food and building relationships through food and fellowship. This movement provides an opportunity for New Communion to practice two interconnected models of community building to which the members of the organization are committed: shared abundance and Asset Based Community Development.
Shared abundance is the belief that individuals have valuable assets to contribute to the community, and together we have enough, in fact, abundance. For example, a resident of one of New Communion’s most vibrant community locations is an inspiring and talented artist. His contact information is on file in the New Communion office so that his work may be commissioned the next time marketing material needs to be produced. Other community members offer extreme leadership, helping to remind their neighbors that the market has arrived and helping carry groceries for the elderly residents. Members of the neighborhoods the organization serves are also quite capable in terms of employment, yet often struggle to find employment for various reasons. New Communion has hired such individuals as managing distribution partners. New Communion itself has the ability to skillfully build relationships and organize resource collaboration for food distribution. We recognize an abundance of talent and physical provisions, thereby facilitating ways to distribute and stretch such talents and provisions is the art of shared abundance.
New Communion’s commitment to Asset Based Community Development honors the talents, knowledge, and experiences of community members while simultaneously allowing these aspects to nourish the organization’s mission. New Communion’s approach to shared abundance lends itself naturally to a model of Asset Based Community Development; members of the communities we visit, and are in relationship with, step into their own leadership roles and New Communion respects such positions, works to nourish them, and is nourished by them.
Media sources have demonstrated support for New Communion in response to its innovative approaches to community building. Notable media recognition includes detailed coverage of a collaborative Easter holiday feast distribution and children’s Easter Egg Hunt organized by New Communion, several of the communities the market visits, and several faith communities.
The Winston-Salem Journal and a local news station created moving pieces to recognize the work done through New Communion’s partnerships for the Easter holiday. Rev. Banks was also a guest on the popular podcast from North Carolina “A Jew and a Gentile Walk into a Bar… Mitzvah” to discuss New Communion’s fresh approach to the work of food justice.
New Communion provides holiday meal boxes around Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to around 4,000 people in Winston-Salem who likely would have been otherwise unable to partake of a special celebratory meal. In addition to these families, New Communion currently feeds over 100 local families a week through non-holiday distributions. New Communion will continue to grow, as need requires and funding allows, increasing the amount of families being fed, leaders being developed, and community relationships nurtured. Growth plans include increasing fresh produce offered, providing more employment opportunities, facilitating gardening relationships, and eventually opening a non profit restaurant that serves as both a community development model for empowerment, and a revenue source for ministry.
For more information: www.newcommunion.org