Asheville church highlights Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry in new photography exhibit

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

For many, particularly in the surrounding area, food scarcity continues to be a problem.

Working with four local organizations that support the community, the First Congregational United Church of Christ of Asheville put together a photography exhibit to focus on the issue of food access and availability.

Community members sort food for distribution under the photographic eye of Farhad Kanuga.

Entitled "Feeding Our Neighbors," the church worked with local organizations including the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry to create the exhibit.

Mandy Kjellstrom was instrumental in putting together the exhibit. She said the purpose of the exhibit is to highlight the efforts of the organizations the church partners with. 

Kjellstrom worked with a team of folks at the church, the Benevolence Team, to decide on organizations to showcase and what the focal point of the exhibit would be. 

"We have a wonderful friend of our congregation named Farhad Kanuga," Kjellstrom said. "He worked with the team, going to organizations when they went and taking photographs."

In addition to SVCM, the exhibit showcases the work of Children First, Loving Food Resources and 12 Baskets. Featured in FCUCC's Oak Street Gallery, Kanuga's photographs capture community organizations collecting, preparing and distributing food throughout the area.

Organizations such as SVCM provide fresh produce from the ministry's food pantry to clients in need.

The church compiled data from Feeding America in a statement. According to its findings, 18 million children and 54 million people overall face food insecurity every day in America. Due to the pandemic, the issue has only gotten worse. 

"With COVID, we've not had clients inside," said Cheryl Wilson, SVCM executive director. "Every day we do a food list of what's available."

SVCM serves from the VA Medical Center through Swannanoa to the east. A crisis ministry, SVCM not only helps clients with food, but also with financial assistance, housing, clothing and more. 

A volunteer sorts through clothing at the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry.

Due to the pandemic, Wilson said the ministry's volunteers stepped up to deliver fresh food to clients' cars outside of the building. Unfortunately, that means clients can't pick out their own food anymore. 

"We get a lot of food from MANNA (FoodBank)," Wilson said. "We've had a lot of food, and it hasn't been costing us as much to get it."

Wilson connected with FCUCC through the Black Mountain community. On March 27, SVCM will give a brief presentation on the ministry's work during Sunday service.

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.