Unexpected Consequences of Community Development

They may look like unexpected benefits, but we’re reminded that they’re part of the design.

“You are not going to believe this, Katie.” Ms. Ethel declared as I passed through our food co-op meeting last week. “I just got back from the doctor, and he told me I’ve lost 10 pounds and my diabetes levels are the lowest they’ve ever been. He asked what’s made the change and I told him it was all because of the food co-op.” Ms. Ethel’s joy was contagious as she continued to share about how the food co-op has made her healthier and happier than when she originally showed up for the food.

I had a similar conversation with Ms. Jackie a few weeks ago. Ms. Jackie was newer to our food co-op and I asked her how she was enjoying it. In her quiet demeanor, she said, “I’m really grateful for the food, but what I love is the people. I love getting out of the house and seeing so many old friends and neighbors.”

Often when we are seeking to solve one problem here at FCS, we find there are unexpected benefits of solving another. When we partnered with Urban Recipe to host a neighborhood food co-op to help find food security for our most vulnerable neighbors, we didn’t realize that chronic diseases would be impacted or that the depth of community among neighbors would be built. 

This happens all the time in South Atlanta – our schools have been a part of a targeted turnaround strategy, and this initiative has directly improved sales in our stores because more people come to work in our neighborhood every day. As FCS has sought to create more mutual exchange in our programs, it has unexpectedly led to more financial stability as an organization.

When we seek justice and equity for one group of people, we end up benefiting everyone. It’s embedded in God’s design for the world. When we seek first to live in right relationship with each other, we find out that our flourishing really was bound up in each others’ wellbeing. Too often, we fall into the trap of assuming that seeking our neighbor’s health means we have to sacrifice good things for ourselves. Neighbors like Ms. Ethel remind us otherwise when they share the way that goodness snowballs. 

We find these revelations delightful and encouraging. They may look like unexpected benefits, but we’re reminded that they’re part of the design.


By Katie Delp