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Rural Matters

Jul 29, 2020

This is the second episode in a new series called Faith-Based Programs and Their Impact on Rural Communities, which we’re doing in collaboration with and supported by The Duke Endowment. This private philanthropic organization serves North Carolina and South Carolina in four distinct grantmaking areas: health care, child & family well-being, higher education, and rural United Methodist churches. Michelle chats with Heather Kilbourne, Program Manager of the Faith in Rural Communities Initiative at the North Carolina Rural Center; Nicole Johnson, Associate Director for the Partners in Health and Wholeness program of the North Carolina Council of Churches; and Michelle Osborne, the Program Manager for Come to the Table, one of many initiatives of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA. Their conversation focuses on how rural congregations are filling gaps in local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and covers a wide range of critical issues, including food systems, public health, and community development. Kilbourne says her program helps churches and other faith communities use their resources to meet the significant needs of residents and that “rural churches thrive when they help their communities thrive.” She also describes how, during COVID-19, churches have purchased meals for community members in need, delivering them directly to residents or via drive-throughs. Johnson says her program assists faith communities in addressing a variety of essential issues, including food security, mental health, and substance abuse, and that faith communities are particularly gifted in “reminding people that they are whole.” She also discusses how her program and local churches have pivoted during the pandemic to offer food drops, deliver COVID-19 kits, and establish testing sites. Osborne describes how her organization works to connect the hunger relief programs of churches to local agriculture to address food security, poverty, and strengthen justice in the state’s food system. She also shares details about a grant program designed to provide churches with funds to purchase food from local farmers and give it to families in need.  The Duke Endowment ( sponsored this episode.