Written by Jessie Palatucci
Those who know me know I am not shy and that I am not afraid to speak up and to speak out—especially if it is on a topic that I am passionate about. Well, I am passionate about the vision of ‘A Just Harvest’ and all of the energy and creative and courageous people involved in the work we are doing.
The mission of A Just Harvest is to fight poverty and hunger in the Rogers Park and greater Chicago community by providing nutritious meals daily while cultivating community and economic development and organizing across racial, cultural and socio-economic lines in order to create a more just society. We have gratefully received UCC Neighbors in Need grants for this vital work.
While many know the story of how A Just Harvest began its work more than 28 years ago, I love to tell the story of how a “soup kitchen” became a powerful anti-hunger organization.
I love to tell the story of how congregational matriarchs and college students are both deeply committed and engaged in the work against hunger.
I love to tell the story of how both the poor and the affluent are hungry for economic justice and fighting together side by side—locally in our community and across the region.
I love to tell the story of how people of faith find themselves fed when they feed the hungry—and experience transformation when they themselves organize to transform systems that perpetuate hunger and poverty.
I love to tell the story, but it is not mine alone. It is Samantha’s story too.
Samantha became a regular patron of our Community Kitchen when she lived in a nearby SRO with her three school aged children. Though angry and bitter, her dire circumstances would not keep her down and she refused to be a victim! At A Just Harvest, Samantha began to find opportunities to redirect her anger and work for change.
Samantha and her kids began volunteering regularly in the Community Kitchen. They also got involved with the organizing arm of A Just Harvest, Northside P.O.W.E.R. (People organized to work, educate and restore), and attend rallies and public actions demanding legislators to tax the rich and stop cutting vital social services. They actively participate in our healthy cooking and nutrition classes and help maintain our plot in the local community garden, where the harvest is used for meals provided by the Community Kitchen.
Samantha’s family now live in a spacious three bedroom apartment. She is taking classes while her kids are in school and always willing to lend a hand. Samantha gratefully tells her story in the hope that it will touch someone else. She knows her story is not hers alone.
There is a saying that goes, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
Samantha and others help A Just Harvest to write (and re-write) our story so that we might live into our name and become what we have been called to be – a powerful anti-hunger organization – committed to our mission to fight poverty and hunger while cultivating community and economic development and organizing in order to create a more just society.