Day 31: Cooking Up Justice

Day 31: Cooking Up Justice March 25, 2015
 (We’re revisiting this post from 2014.)

Cooking Up Justice at the Church Health Center

by Rev. Stacy Smith

Macaroni and cheese, oven fried chicken and ice cream. Can these foods every be deemed “healthy?” At the Church Health Center, we believe they can.

The Church Health Center is a faith-based healthcare nonprofit in Memphis, Tennessee. We have a clinic for the working uninsured and provide comprehensive health care for over 60,000 residents in our county. In addition to the clinic, we operate a pre-school, a for-profit health coverage plan for small businesses, a printing house, a national magazine and an international network of both formal and informal partners. Through our volunteers and generous support from local faith communities, we seek to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits.

Several years ago we realized that the best way to keep a person from incurring a giant medical bill they could not pay was for them to not receive that bill at all. So in 2000 we opened an 80,000 square foot wellness facility to encourage healthy eating and exercise. All of our wellness programs target the specific and unique challenges of our Memphis community, a city with acute health needs and one which is consistently ranked as the poorest major city in the country.

At Church Health Center Wellness, we hold cooking classes everyday for both our members and friends in the community. Our staff of nutrition specialists and registered dieticians create recipes that consider the needs – and the tastes – of the people we serve. Rather than try to change their diet completely, we emphasize healthier cooking methods, portion control and “knowing your numbers.” We have special classes for our diabetic members and classes for children, teens and families. All of our recipes use ingredients that can be purchased at a discount grocery store and we both introduce new, healthy foods to your diet and rethink the traditional Southern comfort foods we dearly love. In the last three years we have added a weekly farmer’s market to our ministry and use fresh, local ingredients in the classes we teach. Through our wrap-around care model that partners traditional medicine with wellness education, community support and a faith-based environment, we have documented significant health improvements for our patients and their families.


See more about the Church Health Center in this video:




Photos provided by the Church Health Center

Rev. Stacy C. Smith is a writer and teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She is the Academic Liaison at the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN and the editor of Church Health Reader, a magazine on health and healing ministries for lay leaders and clergy. Originally from Dallas, TX, Stacy earned her Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and is currently pursuing doctoral studies at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. She is the co-author of Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman (2011) and has served congregations in New York City, Indianapolis and Memphis. Stacy is a dedicated associate member of the Iona Community in Scotland and loves traveling, college football, good TV, and sushi.




Lenten Calendar for MARCH 25

Read Mark 12: 28-34. Check with local restaurants to see if you can find places that are serving local, organic foods. Make a reservation to eat there.




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We need your stories!

We’re already looking ahead to the 40 Days for Food Justice Project for 2016 and we’re looking for more stories, experiences, prayers and resources about food justice and food injustice.

If you would like to contribute – or would like to recommend a contributor – please send us an email and let us know.



In addition to being the founder and editor-in-chief of the “40 Days for Food Justice Project”, the Rev. MargaretAnne Overstreet is a mom, a Presbyterian pastor, and a certified Health Coach. She does ministry with and among the good people of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Belleville, Illinois, where she gets her hands dirty in the community garden and, every Sunday, preaches with bare feet. She treasures family time, relishes every opportunity to teach and write about food justice, and loves to play outside with her dogs. Find out more about her at


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