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From faith to farming, Knoxville pastor grows food desert solution

A Knoxville pastor is growing solutions to a food desert affecting his community.
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 8:56 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 11:30 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -A drive around the Morningside neighborhood revealed a shocking discovery to East Knoxville pastor, Chris Battle.

“There is no grocery store in 37915 zip code,” Battle said.

He found himself traveling through a food desert, which the United States Department of Agriculture defines as a number of low-income households that do not have easy access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

“We don’t like to use that term. (Instead,) limited access. A desert suggests there’s no life, but there is a lot of life in East Knoxville,” Battle said.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, low access to food contributes to a person’s overall health. Separate studies from Clemson University link food deserts to increasing crime rates.

Battle started BattleField Farm & Gardens located along Boyd’s Bridge Pike. Over the last three years, he’s teamed up with a number of non-profits and churches to host giveaways. Battle told WVLT News he’s given out at least two tons worth of fresh produce, including greens and sweet potatoes.

“People come here who wouldn’t come to my church. I got atheist to come here. I got folks from different persuasions or no persuasions at all,” said Battle. “It’s amazing, when you put your hands in the dirt, how much commonality you have.”

Battle has spent his down time showing other pastors, children and community leaders how to garden or farm. His continued work has earned him honors from the Christian Community Development Association. He even won the Impact Award from the Young Professionals of Knoxville.

The pastor said the true victory is sowing enough food to feed a big city.

“It’s an easy win, but we just have to commit to doing it,” Battle said.

Battle said he’s on the hunt for a delivery truck.

He’s hosting a sweet potato giveaway this weekend.

You can find times and dates here.

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