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Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church is Transforming an Urban Food Desert with Their Community Grocery Store

harvest tabernacle bible church

Senior Pastor Dr. Donald R. Cook II and his church leaders are not as focused on growing membership numbers as they are on reaching deeper into their community with meaningful ministry engagements.  They recognized the ongoing gentrification in their historically African-American East Los Angeles community meant Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church faced dramatic changes in the area that would continue into the future.

Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church Transforming an Urban Food Desert with Community Grocery Store

The Los Angeles community was rapidly evolving, with many residents leaving the area and an influx of wealthier residents moving in their place. Meanwhile, Dr. Cook noticed that many remaining residents were walking back and forth from grocery shopping because they could not afford or did not have access to a car. When he saw a child pushing a stroller filled with groceries, he knew things needed to change. But Dr. Cook also knew he needed input from the community to validate his concerns so Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church could create an effective plan to help.

Dr. Donald Cook II, senior pastor

“I literally prayed and asked for direction on what our church should be doing differently,” Dr. Cook recalled. “We knew we had a great Sunday morning church but what were we doing Monday through Saturday?”

Dr. Donald Cook II, Senior Pastor

Dr. Cook turned to MissionInsite, a community analytics tool he learned to use while earning his Masters of Science degree through Villanova University’s Church Management program. Leveraging MissionInsite, Dr. Cook found that the African-American population, which was 95% of the community when the church was founded in 1976, had shrunk to 40% and Asians represented the largest growing population. Diving deeper into the demographic data, Dr. Cook discovered the Asian community was predominantly Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.  

As a result, Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church was able to effectively invite a more diverse community to roundtable discussions and town hall-style meetings about community needs by handing out multilingual flyers in English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. From these discussions, church leaders learned that Dr. Cook’s hypothesis was right: the overwhelming need was a community grocery store.  

Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church Transforming an Urban Food Desert with Community Grocery Store

“We wanted the buy-in from the community, whether or not they become members.”

Dr. Donald Cook II, Senior Pastor

Dr. Cook was able to get a large building project approved by the board to demolish and rebuild the church with a community grocery store on the ground floor and four stories of affordable housing above. Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church will be able to feed residents in its Los Angeles neighborhood and change the lives of people in the community.

"MissionInsite really anchors down the Great Commission, which requires us to know our people and to serve our community," said Dr. Donald Cook II.

“MissionInsite really anchors down the Great Commission, which requires us to know our people and to serve our community.”

Dr. Donald Cook II, Senior Pastor

To find out more about MissionInsite, visit here. To learn more about Dr. Donald Cook and Harvest Tabernacle Bible Church, visit here.

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