Conversation Starters:

Creation Justice and Healthy Eating

by Karlah Y. Burton, United Methodist Earthkeeper 

Eating wholesome food full of nutrients can reduce the incidence of disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also lower in cost. Healthy food choices not only keep the body healthy, but also mind and soul. Healthy eating drives away diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and helps prevent obesity. 

As environmental advocates, we must also promote health and correctness in our eating!  Sustainable gardening techniques can help combat future warming trends by reducing emissions and increasing carbon storage in soil and plants. More specifically, “climate resilient gardening” involves 

  • planting native plants (species evolved naturally in a region), 
  • increasing diversity of plants, 
  • improving soil health (counting organic matter), 
  • growing heat-tolerant vegetables/crops (melons, sunflower, zucchini squash, southern peas),  and managing stormwater (rain collection barrels). 

My church, Saint Matthews UMC in Greensboro, North Carolina, has operated a community garden since 2020 and has donated approximately 400 pounds of fresh produce and flowers! We have recently begun composting to create organic matter, which—when used—will boost the condition of the soil. Adding food scraps to compost decreases the amount of waste in landfills, which is notorious for generating methane. Methane traps 28 times more heat per mass unit than the other greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

Annette Kirkpatrick, a Creation Care Ministry member, lends a hand at a 2022 community clean up.

Consider starting a community garden! Explore available resources and opportunities for funding. Experiment with different crops. Food grown locally helps reduce emissions associated with long distance transportation. 

This year our church received nearly 150 packs of seeds during “Seeds to Share” hosted by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension (Guilford County, NC). Local businesses and organizations contribute vegetable and flower seeds annually, which then are offered free of charge. This year our church’s Creation Care Ministry has elected to grow a wide variety of tomatoes, okra, flowers, cucumbers, and carrots plus a list of secondary choices. Try the sample recipe below featuring one of our popular edibles! 

Saint Matthews UMC is a member of the Partners in Health and Wholeness (PHW) Collaborative—an initiative of the NC Council of Churches designed to connect issues of faith, health, and justice. We support the theme of “healthy eating” as one of several areas of focus, and we are a two-time recipient of a PHW mini-grant. 

The Creation Care Ministry and Community Garden Project at Saint Matthews UMC is a faith- based ministry seeking to explore the hidden potential that God has granted through the blessings of the earth. Our church is located in Greensboro, NC and is a part of the Northern Piedmont District of the Western NC Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Saint Matthews UMC member Inell Artis member of Creation Care Ministry team

Karlah Burton serves as chairperson of her church’s Creation Care Ministry and Community Garden Project. She also is a member of the Western NC Annual Conference Creation Care Team and active with the Greensboro Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. 

Roasted Okra with Olive Oil and Garlic

Okra is rich in vitamins A and C as well as antioxidants that can reduce the risk of serious illnesses like cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Additionally, okra is a good source of magnesium and folate (a B vitamin).


  • Fresh okra, trimmed (from the garden/follow harvesting tips)
  • Olive oil  (alternative, avocado oil)
  • Garlic powder (more uniformly coats okra)
    • OR minced garlic (also may be grown fresh)
  • Kosher salt (reduce amount if using fine salt to avoid saltiness)
  • Black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss okra in seasoning. 
  3. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Stir okra midway. 

*** High-heat baking enhances the taste and removes slimy texture.***