Four Initiatives: Mt. Carmel Church

You’ve been reading about Jump IN for Healthy Kids’ participation in the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge and we’re happy to feature another organization doing great work in greater Lawrence and the far east side, Mt. Carmel Church.  Our work in the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge is to address childhood overweight and obesity in a four-zip code area using a comprehensive, multi-sector approach.  We work with child care providers; schools; and workplaces; and we address food access so that families have healthy, affordable food; and the built environment to ensure that children and families have access to enough opportunities for physical activity.   Mt. Carmel resides in that area, and we are happy to support their work as part of our Challenge.  Mt. Carmel also has a multi-sector approach to supporting its community, addressing food access, children’s after-school activities, community financial needs, and high school education. 

Raised garden boxes at Mt. Carmel Church

In addition to a robust congregation, Mt. Carmel launched four community initiatives last year to bring needed resources to its under-served neighborhood. Three are still in the planning stages but will be launching soon. The first is a federal credit union. In an area with few banks and financial resources, too often people with limited financial resources can fall victim to predatory lenders or similar high-fee financial outlets.  Mt. Carmel aims to bring a credit union to its campus where neighbors can have a safe financial partner and planner without the risk of high fees or predatory rules. 

The second is a food insecurity co-op.  A little different than a food pantry, the co-op will share ownership and charge a nominal fee for products.  The people who access the co-op will also help manage and staff it.  Pastor Mark Johnson says that their goal is for people “to be partners and have ownership in the resurgence of their community.” 

Gardens stretch on the right side of the church

The third is a community garden, and this project is in full swing.  You can see Derrik Thomas’s report on WTHR this week.  Part of the produce is sold at Mt. Carmel’s weekly farmer’s market, held after its Sunday church service each week.  Mt. Carmel sits in a severe food desert, with many residents lacking access to healthy, affordable food.  Access to healthy food is a critical cause of obesity (and poor health related to obesity) in children and adults.  Offering affordable, fresh produce, at the Mt. Carmel farmers market helps families be healthier.  

The fourth and final initiative of Mr. Carmel’s is a charter high school. in the spring, Mt. Carmel had selected a school leader and will plan to open this August. 

These four important initiatives aren’t the only great work going on at Mt. Carmel.  They also launched Turn Up Tuesday, after school on Tuesdays, for ages 2-18.  There they offer homework help, sports, games, art, and a nutritious hot dinner – all for free.  Mt. Carmel also houses a high-quality early childhood center on site (Paths to QUALITY level 3) that has participated in Jump IN and Early Learning Indiana’s program Taking Steps to Healthy Success (created by Nemours and the CDC), which teaches early childhood educators to implement sustainable best practices around nutrition and physical activity in their child care centers. 

Mt. Carmel is a force of good on the far east side and is part of a comprehensive network of neighborhood partners working to help their neighbors lead healthier, happier lives.