- AffiliationProceeding Word Church, Chicago
There are those who fill stomachs. There are those who feed souls. Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick has been doing both for years, helping to soothe a long-simmering hunger in her Chicago neighborhood with whatever sustenance she can provide. Three years ago, she helped start a community garden in a vacant lot near the North Lawndale church on the city’s West Side where she preaches every Sunday. “We were giving away all the produce to our community members,” she says, “and they’d say that they’d never tasted fresher collard greens or tomatoes.”
But in many cases, she knew, her neighbors hadn’t tasted any greens or fresh produce in a while. “We have a food desert in our community—and in our city, really,” says Fitzpatrick, who counts just one supermarket nearby. And when COVID-19 hit, it got much worse, with long lines for whatever remained on the shelves and with many neighbors suddenly out of work and hungry. The pastor was approached by Urban Growers Collective, a Black-led nonprofit farmers’ group, which began to bring 300 boxes of produce to her church every week for Fitzpatrick, in turn, to give away. “So that started the whole trajectory for us,” she says, “where we kept asking, ‘What else can we do?’”
What soon followed was “Soup for the Soul,” where Fitzpatrick and her flock would prepare hot meals every Monday for anyone who stopped by. “Two hundred meals and they’re gone in 45 minutes because people are coming out for it,” she marvels. A grant from the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund is helping her turn eight more vacant lots into gardens, as well as build a “community commercial kitchen,” where residents can take classes to become food service managers. “So you can come in, learn to cook, and get a business started,” Fitzpatrick explains.
Her church shares an address with the historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. would sometimes come to preach and where today’s pastor is Reshorna Fitzpatrick’s husband, Bishop Derrick M. Fitzpatrick. Across the boulevard is the house where she lived for the first six years of her life. The elementary school she attended is still there, too. “So this whole community, I kind of think, belongs to me,” she says. “I’m responsible for making sure that we are adequately taking care of it—that there’s equity, social and economic justice, and everything else we need.”