P INK R D & FOOD
BLESSINGS Heavenly Groceries provides food for the soul
By Ma delin e Kra f t
eavenly Groceries volunteers shuffle through St. Joseph Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s open
basement every Wednesday afternoon in a rehearsed routine to prep the weekly delivery of fresh food boxes. Theo Cokkinos peruses the piles of potatoes, peaches and peppers, weeding out the spoiled food. Diana Koo makes constant trips from the refrigerator to the containers, distributing milk cartons and eggs. Annie Zhang lifts watermelons one by one into each box. Finally, Aisha Booze-Hall helps transport the filled boxes to volunteers’ cars to be delivered along routes in the Northside, Pine Knolls and Tin Top neighborhoods. Seeing a need in 2002, the Rev. Tory Harrison, then pastor of St. Joseph CME Church, and his wife, Bernie Harrison, began giving loaves of bread to members of their congregation. Today, the program continues to grow thanks to donations from the community, a partnership with the Marian Cheek Jackson Center and the church’s “Heavenly Angels,” longtime members who have operated the ministry since its inception. The volunteers hope to one day provide healthy food for everyone in need and alleviate hunger in the community. Before COVID-19, Heavenly Groceries served approximately 3,500 people by opening its doors five days a week from 3 to 4:30 p.m. as a self-service grocery that was stocked with fresh fruits, veggies, bread, dairy products and dried goods. Anyone in need of food was welcome to come into the store and take whatever they needed. “There is an 60
Heavenly Groceries volunteers Theo Cokkinos and Annie Zhang.
abundance-based practice present in the way that we aim to work with people in the community to provide a high-quality life for them,” says Aisha, a food justice and eldercare senior fellow at Marian Cheek Jackson Center and a 2020 graduate of UNC. However, in order to keep the volunteers and the community safe during the ongoing pandemic, the ministry has shifted its operation to deliver boxes of fresh food once a week instead. Aisha first became involved with Heavenly Groceries by serving as a volunteer through her UNC nutrition class. After her graduation, she became a senior fellow operating the program, drawn to its heavy focus on developing relationships. “It is nice to be completing work with people who you care about,” she says. “It allows the work to be so much sweeter.”
The Food and Drink Issue