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Sheila Oliveri, center, read a story to children at A Red Circle’s Healthy Mom and Babies bonfire event at the Rustic Roots Sanctuary in Spanish Lake on Nov. 6. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has granted A Red Circle $10,000 for its Healthy Food Access program aimed at improving food access in north St. Louis County. From left, Jeremiah Keeble, 2, his mom Chiquita Keeble, La’Mariel Ivy, 2, Oliveri, and Ava Coleman, 2, listened to the story.
Sheila Oliveri, center, read a story to children at A Red Circle’s Healthy Mom and Babies bonfire event at the Rustic Roots Sanctuary in Spanish Lake on Nov. 6. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has granted A Red Circle $10,000 for its Healthy Food Access program aimed at improving food access in north St. Louis County. From left, Jeremiah Keeble, 2, his mom Chiquita Keeble, La’Mariel Ivy, 2, Oliveri, and Ava Coleman, 2, listened to the story.
Photo Credit: Nicole Jarrett Alvarado for the St. Louis Review

Grant aids food system in north St. Louis County

Local food program is among Catholic Campaign for Human Development grantees

LaTanya Ivy, left, shows acorns to La’Mariel Ivy, center, and Ava Coleman at the Red Circle’s Healthy Mom and Babies bonfire event at Rustic Roots Sanctuary on Nov. 6. Ivy leads the moms and babies nutrition program. A Red Circle is a recipient of a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development for its Healthy Food Access program.
Photo Credits: Nicole Jarrett Alvarado for the St. Louis Review
LaTanya Ivy had to leave her health-care job in early 2020 when COVID-19 spread across the United States. She needed to care for her daughter, whose weakened immune system increased the risk of infection.

To help her through loss of income, Ivy reached out to A Red Circle, a non-profit organization that helps economic development in north St. Louis County. A Red Circle helped Ivy with food and resource referrals.

Ivy
“Everything was going haywire, it was really hard,” Ivy said. “Their resources were very important to me. I didn’t know what to do because I’d never been in a situation like that.”

Ivy has since joined the staff of A Red Circle as coordinator of the Healthy Moms and Babies program, which teaches moms how to eat well throughout their pregnancy and beyond, with nutritious fruits and vegetables as opposed to highly processed foods with unhealthy amounts of sugar and salt.

Better eating habits

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is providing a $10,000 grant to A Red Circle to improve the area’s food system. A collection for the campaign — the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops — will be held in parishes the weekend of Nov. 20 and 21.

Families in A Red Circle’s program receive food delivered to their homes along with quick, easy recipes and tips on how to eat nutritionally. “We want them to understand that what they eat is not only important for them, but moreso for their children to help with a plethora of things — mental health, birth weight, just a healthier foundation rather than eating a lot of junk, to-go stuff or food with a lot of chemicals in them,” Ivy said.

A Bonfire Brunch, sponsored by the moms’ group, was held Nov. 6 at Rustic Roots Sanctuary, a sustainable farm with an organic community garden in Spanish Lake. The social event for moms and their children included a meal, tour of the farm, a reading of three books by Sheila Oliveri, who is the literacy and curriculum coordinator of Ready Readers, and other activities.

Participants were encouraged to take home peppers, spicy salsa, pepper relish and elderberry tincture, all made of ingredients at the farm.

Chiquita Keeble and her son, Jeremiah, age 2, were among those who attended. Keeble works at an elementary school and sees firsthand the effects of poor eating habits among children who have development and concentration difficulties as a result. Andrea Coleman, with her daughter, Ava, age 2, said she’s learned it can be less expensive to eat nutritious foods — if they’re available. “I like the way (A Red Circle) takes an interest in moms, children and nutrition. They help people find resources and gain and maintain optimal health,” Coleman said.

Human dignity

Williams
Erica Williams founded A Red Circle in 2017 to spur economic development and now is executive director. “We believe in human dignity,” she said. “One of the issues that comes up when it comes to dignity is the ability for everybody to access good, healthy, affordable food where they live. So we are huge proponents of increasing healthy food access in various pockets of north county that are currently food deserts.”

The grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development helps in those areas, Williams said. A Red Circle likes to not only grow food but teach youth about growing food, careers in agriculture, equity and how they can improve food systems where they live.

This year, A Red Circle grew more than 400 pounds of food for people through Healthy Community Market, an affordable farmers’ market with nutrition, exercise and education components. Food also was distributed to seniors and others. Efforts are being made to open a community-owned store featuring items from urban farmers and with no tobacco or liquor products.

When groceries close, it’s usually due to a lack of profits, Williams said. “We’re not profit-driven, we’re mission-driven. We believe that everybody deserves good food. We believe in using God’s bounty to the fullest. What He allows us to grow and teach others allows people to have dignity.”


>> Anti-poverty program

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. CCHD grants are funded by donations from Catholics across the country, especially through an annual parish collection held the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The local CCHD program is administered by the Archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission. All grants are approved by the archbishop of St. Louis.

The CCHD believes people who experience poverty best understand how to fight it. That’s why CCHD-funded projects empower low-income people to engage and overcome their circumstances.

CCHD’s approach differs from those of other charitable poverty programs; rather than meet the immediate needs of people who are poor, it takes aim at the reasons why people become and remain poor. The campaign ultimately works for policy change that addresses inequities that perpetuate poverty and impose injustice.

Contribute at your parish the weekend of Nov. 20 and 21 or at cchdstl.org/donate.


>> Grant awards

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is providing four local grants and one national grant to self-help organizations in the Archdiocese of St. Louis this year. Local grantees are:

Institute for Peace and Justice, $4,900 for Solving Our Solutions, a program educating women who have been incarcerated about the importance of self-awareness and thoughtful responses to problem situations.

The St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, $10,000 for education and organizing migrants on immigration issues from a faith-based perspective.

Metropolitan Congregations United for St. Louis, $10,000 for an environmental justice action program addressing air quality in low-income areas.

A Red Circle, $10,000 for a project designed to transform the area’s food system by empowering low-income residents to grow and distribute fresh produce, explore careers in food and entrepreneurship and better understand food justice and racial equity.

A national grantee is:

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, $65,000 for its advocacy and education.

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