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Growing Community, Health, and Food in Sacred Places (FiSP)

Improving access to healthy food, healthcare, and nutrition programs in low-income communities and communities of color is an urgent need, particularly in urban areas where food deserts are common. 

Food in Sacred Places (FiSP) is an innovative program that connects congregations with health experts nationwide to foster:

  • conveniently located health and nutrition programming
  • widespread access to fresh, ethically grown food; clean, safe, green-spaces; entrepreneurship opportunities; and health care
  • a sustainable infrastructure to affordably feed our community

To execute this mission, we:

  • provide support to congregations seeking to license their facilities as shared kitchens
  • act as matchmakers and facilitators for partnerships between congregations and nutrition, health, and environmental professionals
  • provide tools such as training, documentation, budget, and legal assistance

The Need and the Opportunity

An overwhelming number of low-income families, in both rural and urban America, are disconnected from food systems that would provide them with affordable and nutritious food in convenient and culturally appropriate ways. According to a 2009 USDA report, 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in a low-income area located more than one mile from a supermarket. Studies conducted by The Food Trust, a food justice nonprofit, indicate that lack of access to affordable, fresh food is, “negatively associated with low-income residents’ health and economic well-being.” Community members who must, “travel outside of their neighborhoods to purchase food or shop at smaller corner and convenience stores,” generally encounter, “lower-quality food, limited fresh choices, and substantially higher prices.”

Through our conversations with environmental organizations, health centers, food justice groups, and faith communities, we have seen a clear sense of shared purpose. Supported by a strong theological framework, many faith leaders honor the relationship between caring for their congregations and care of the land and understand the connection between stewardship and environmental, social, and economic justice. At the same time, nutrition, farming, and greening organizations are engaging, mobilizing, and organizing people to improve access to community health. Recognizing this alignment in community and congregational vision, the Food in Sacred Places program intertwines theology, ecology, and food justice to promote a renewed sense of environmental stewardship and how such stewardship supports a sustainable food system.

Partners’ Solution and the FiSP Program

Partners provides a key value in its role as an umbrella organization, uniting congregations for greater impact through its position as a trusted facilitator. Partners currently acts as a liaison between health, nutrition, and environmental organizations and interested congregations, providing both parties with potential partnership options, project development assistance, and the training needed to enact these transformative programs. Depending on the assets of each sacred space, congregations have opportunities to join forces with other groups on a range of initiatives such as:

  • growing food on their outdoor green space
  • presenting community programs such as cooking or nutrition classes in their kitchens and social halls
  • hosting environmental education events, entrepreneurship opportunities, farmers’ markets, incubator kitchens, community supported agriculture programs, or clinics on their premises
  • acting as a convener for food justice and environmental activists

The individualized partnership structure of the program offers a mosaic of initiatives to change food and environmental systems and, ultimately, build upon each congregation’s mission and vision.