When Pablo Centeno was a child, his father could buy a loaf of bread for 25 cents. Today, the average price of bread is more than $2. Many South Carolinians are struggling to feed their families and they particularly cannot afford the fresh produce that offers the nutritional value to help them live healthy lives.
In an effort to fight hunger in the Upstate, Pablo and Miriam Centeno founded Maranatha Redencion Alcance Mundial (M.R.A.M.), a church serving Simpsonville and the surrounding areas. They started the ministry 15 years ago with the goal of becoming a bridge between the community and the city and hoping to better serve citizens’ needs. The ministry houses “Jireh Gen 22:14,” a 600-square-foot food and clothing bank open to the community. Today the ministry serves more than 350 families a month, or approximately 700 to 800 individuals. Everything in the bank is offered at no cost and people can take as much as they need or want.
One of the bank’s major donors is The Generous Garden Project, an organization that works to fight hunger by growing and harvesting fresh produce and then providing it to local ministries and food pantries. The fresh fruits and vegetables they donate are healthy alternatives that people in need may not be able to afford.
M.R.A.M.’s partnership with The Generous Garden Project began three years ago, when The Garden reached out to partner with them. “They saw the impact our service was making and wanted us to serve as a channel for their project,” Miriam says. “We are a means through which more food can reach the many people in need throughout our community.”
“With all of the economic adversities these days, people are experiencing hardships like they’ve never known before,” Pablo explains. “Our partnership has allowed us to reach out to our own community and even beyond. People know there is a place in Simpsonville that will not let someone in need go hungry. Thanks to The Generous Garden Project, they make supplying these needs possible.”
Pablo says the most rewarding thing is seeing the faces of recipients when they receive produce straight from the garden and can take it home at no cost. Miriam tells the story about a weary young pregnant woman who entered the ministry one day, accompanied by her three small children. She had recently relocated to the area and had no food or clothes for her family. When the young woman saw the fresh vegetables that had just arrived, her eyes lit up. She was so excited and filled up as many bags as she could carry to take home. Miriam remembers her saying it must have been God’s plan that she had discovered their ministry because she didn’t even know what she was going to feed her children that day.
The partnership between M.R.A.M. and The Generous Garden Project not only provides fresh food resources to people in need, but also teaches them about healthy nutrition and how to prepare the items once they get home. Pablo even hands out some of his favorite personal recipes.
“Their name says it all,” Pablo says. “The Generous Garden Project has been very generous.”