Josh Rutledge is Cooking Light's Assistant Production Editor. When he's not working, he spends a lot of time with a local non-profit that serves the houseless community of Birmingham. Here's Josh to talk about an exciting opportunity for the group.

There is nothing quite like food to bridge social, economic, and cultural barriers.

For the folks at Avail, a Birmingham, Ala.-based non-profit, food has become a primary means to serve the areas’ houseless* population. Not by simply distributing it. But by growing it!

Last year, Avail built their first urban, organic farm in the downtown area of Birmingham, Ala. They worked alongside several of their formerly houseless friends to construct the garden, complete now with a shed, compost bin, greenhouse, and 48 raised garden beds! Currently, several men Avail helped off the street are now living in an apartment on location at the garden, managing the daily grind of maintaining it. Produce from the garden is either shared together at weekly meals or sold at a local, organic grocer — with all funds going back into the work!

It’s a beautiful, self-sustaining picture. Because for Avail, the goal is never to just get someone off the street. Or to just feed someone. It is to build true, lasting relationships. It is to share dinner together as friends. It is to walk alongside individuals, helping them to believe and then realize their value and potential— not as a “homeless person,” but as a human.

Currently, Avail is competing in a social media drive to win a $15,000 grant through the Gardens for Good program. You can help them win by logging onto Facebook and voting for them here! And you can vote every day until June 30!

*Oh, and they call it houseless, not homeless. Because there’s so much more to a home than just four walls!