Neighborhood’s Hands Program: Lighting the Way in a Food Desert

By Caroline Bloomfield | September 26, 2022
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by Caroline Bloomfield
September 26, 2022

Dr. S.D. Patterson is the Executive Director of Neighborhood’s Hands, a stunning example for districts similar to this Winston-Salem region of North Carolina. Dr. Patterson warmly describes the local population of low-income, disenfranchised folks who live in this “food desert” region of North Carolina. Dr. Patterson grew up in this neighborhood and as a child, he experienced what it’s like to be in need of meals. After practicing law for 18 years, he earned his degree in Pastoral Care, and has been referred to as an “everyday hero.” This is his neighborhood, and these are his people. He wants them to be fed, educated and healthy, and spends his days making sure that happens.

Among other things, Neighborhood’s Hands headquarters is also an official national “Safe Place,” as well as a Youth Center. They provide after-school programs here, as well as workforce development training, mentoring for men and women, an ongoing adult GED course and a mobile food pantry. They deliver food daily to those who need it most.

Community Gardening

Gardening Know How was excited about Neighborhood’s Hands’ community garden. What’s extraordinary about this program is that anyone and everyone is welcome to eat here, from the table, the food pantry or local food bank. The food raised in the garden, as well as food donated by local grocery stores and other community partners is absolutely free to everyone. No one needs to be hungry here, in spite of the region’s imperfect conditions.

The program’s facility is right up the street from their community gardens. The local extension service as well as the NC state university come there to teach the area’s students all about the proper ways to garden, then they transport the kids in the program’s van to the garden so they can practice some hands-on gardening. 

Dr. Patterson tells us these inner city kids, who are primarily African American, put any party issues aside and work together to do the planting and weeding as needed. Most of the major work in the garden is done on a volunteer basis, except one person who is paid to cut grass and do weeding, and a visiting farmer. This community is a model for others like it, where there are opportunities to overcome daily adversity and to thrive. This stellar legacy for his own neighborhood sets right a situation that he came to know firsthand. Dr. Patterson is truly an everyday hero.

If you love this story and would like to make a donation to Neighborhood’s Hands, click here.

Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help.

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