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Manhattan church’s garden roof brings community together, feeds locals

HELL'S KITCHEN, Manhattan —Metro Baptist Church is a 100-year-old fixture at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, but it's also smack dab in the middle of what's quickly becoming a "food desert."

The garden grows in the shadow of the Hudson Yards development, which volunteer Debbie Mullins points to when explaining why it's so important.

"Whenever one of these big buildings goes up you can be certain a rather expensive speciality market or restaurant will be there. With all the gentrification, you make the assumption that everyone is reasonably well off. But there are pockets of poverty in Hell's Kitchen."

Tiffany Henkel, the pastor here, took PIX11 reporter Kirstin Cole on a tour, pointing to the kale, blueberries, tomatoes, eggplant and bush beans growing.

The bounty of it all prompted Cole to ask, "Should I ask what you don’t grow?" And that elicits a easy laugh from the woman who's just at home in the pulpit as she is up to her wrists in dirt.

"We've had this food pantry here, serving the community for 30 years. And the challenge is always how to get more fresh food into it. So seven years ago the church converted the roof."

Since then, pots and even the fertile walls have become ground for growing, fattening up what they offer in their food pantry that feeds 800 every month .

"People think you can’t grow food in NYC, but you can."

And it’s not only the green stuff that’s growing: young minds are hard at work, along with their busy hands

"We were taking out the lettuce, washing the lettuce," said high school junior Charles Campbell, who is doing a summer internship here.

Having never gardened before, Campbell said he's learning the basics, but also seeing the bigger picture.

"I feel like it’s going to make me more aware of what people need in my community."

It's a mission that all agree brings them closer to their neighbors, and yes, to their maker, knowing that when they feed the belly they are feeding the soul too.