Rising Hope renovates to increase food access


Rising Hope's upgraded community kitchen features new flooring and appliances, and newly painted walls.

Rising Hope Mission Church, a United Methodist congregation focused on providing food, clothing, shelter and other need-based services to residents of the Richmond Highway area, now has an expanded array of facilities to improve food access along the corridor.

Thanks to donors and a Food Access Program grant from Fairfax County, the church has replaced the floor in its upstairs education wing and kitchen, as well as completely transformed its food storage and preparation areas into a commercial-grade community kitchen. Besides installing brand-new appliances, Rising Hope has doubled its refrigeration, maximizing user space and turning another room into a walk-in dry storage pantry. The church also has added new equipment to its Food Pantry, which distributes food and produce to needy community members, and is increasing access to fresh, healthy and tasty meals at its free lunches, which are served from Tuesdays through Fridays.

Rising Hope's Food Pantry has new appliances, including refrigerators for storing meat.

Rev. Kameron Wilds, lead pastor at Rising Hope since 2020, said the congregation had three goals for its renovation project — to communicate God’s love through food, revamp the way that impoverished and homeless people think about food, and help individuals with culinary talent but limited resources achieve their food-related dreams.

“The reality of it is we live in a diverse area, but food is a universal language,” said Wilds, who previously founded the Helping Hands Thrift Store and Feed My Sheep feeding program. “At Rising Hope, we look to recapture the nature of eating as a communal act that unites creation with creator.”

Rising Hope's dining room received a paint job and new flooring.

Wilds said the new entrepreneurial aspect of the community kitchen will be called “Seeds of Hope” and will provide space for aspiring chefs and bakers to ply their trade. Last fall, the church piloted this concept with a community member, Pamela “Cookie” Boatman, whose talent and passion for making cupcakes led the Financial Empowerment Center at South County and Rising Hope to provide the business practice guidance and space she needed to launch her business, “Cookie’s Custom Cake Creations.”

Rising Hope is forging other fruitful partnerships in the community as well. At the church’s inaugural “Empty Bowls” fundraiser last fall, staff members conversed with a team member from Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture about food access issues. Now the two organizations are planning to co-finance a new greenhouse at Rising Hope for raising fresh herbs and vegetables, and teaching community members about container gardening.

The soon-to-be-installed greenhouse will be located next to the new shed at Rising Hope.

The church is already planning an open house for families on September 10 to show off the new greenhouse. The following month, the next Empty Bowls fundraiser will take place, educating attendees about food insecurity while enabling them to enjoy a professionally cooked soup served in take-home ceramic bowls designed and donated by local artisans.

Noting that the increased price of food and other necessities has been challenging for many residents of the Richmond Highway corridor, Wilds said that Rising Hope has helped lighten people’s burdens with access to groceries, meals and fellowship.

“When we don’t know how to make a difference on a global scale, I am reminded that the work of justice begins in your own backyard,” he said.

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