After her injury slowed operations, Jennifer’s Edibles owner seeks community support


Maia Spoto / Daily Senior Staffer

Jennifer’s Edibles owner Jennifer Eason (left) and her brother and former managing partner William Eason stand behind the restaurant counter. Eason runs the soul food restaurant and its non-profit leg that serves free meals to homebound Evanston residents.

Elena Hubert, Reporter

January 2022 was supposed to mark a milestone for Jennifer Eason. After years of professional growth and community engagement, the lifelong Evanston resident was excited to celebrate the fifth anniversary of her soul food restaurant Jennifer’s Edibles.

After initially closing the restaurant at the start of the pandemic, Eason shifted its operations to feed residents experiencing food insecurity. She scaled up quickly to open the restaurant’s non-profit arm, Jennifer’s Edibles Feeds the Community, ultimately delivering up to 1,400 free meals a week to homebound residents.

She reopened the restaurant in August and was successfully running both until January — when she slipped on ice and broke her ankle.

“I was absolutely sure that I would have to either shut down or just close,” Eason said.

Now, Eason is looking to the community for support. 

Located on Simpson Street in the 5th Ward, Jennifer’s Edibles is now operating with limited hours and struggling financially. Eason’s staff has kept the non-profit going with volunteer support and grant funding. Eason started a GoFundMe page on Jan. 19 to keep the restaurant and non-profit afloat in her absence and to cover the remainder of her medical bills.

Eason previously served as a minister at her church but stepped back from her role during the pandemic.

Larry Murphy owns YoFresh Yogurt Cafe on Chicago Avenue and regularly stocks his cafe with dishes from Jennifer’s Edibles. He said Eason’s connection to her faith fuels her work.

“Her vision is beyond just simply being an entrepreneur but incorporates being a responsible community citizen and a contributor to the well being of the community,” Murphy said.

Eason supports her community through her cooking as well. At Jennifer’s Edibles, Eason nourishes residents with soul food, from chicken and waffles at breakfast to oxtails at lunch and dinner.

Eason and Soul & Smoke co-owner D’Andre Carter said they are making early plans with owners of other local shops to bring more businesses to the 5th Ward. 

Murphy said he’s grateful for the “very thoughtful and responsible and ethical” role model he sees in Eason.

“Any time there’s an African American who can model those characteristics and do it successfully, it’s important because it undergirds the current public assertion that Black lives matter,” he said. “She shows the ways in which Black lives do matter in this community.”

Lashaun Taylor was Eason’s first customer at her catering business. Twenty years later, Taylor remains a regular customer at Jennifer’s Edibles. 

“I just feel so at home when I’m there, like (it’s) my mom’s kitchen,” Taylor said.

A lifelong 5th Ward resident, Taylor said her parents visited 1623 Simpson St., where Jennifer’s Edibles is located, when it was a site of Black political activism in the 1970s. Since then, the location has been home to Hecky’s Jazz Club and Uncle Randy’s Jamaican American Cuisine. Eason enjoys engaging with the building’s history and showcases a few artifacts from the building’s past at the restaurant.

Eason said she is hopeful for the future of her restaurant and non-profit.

“The actual restaurant business is growing from where we’ve come and I do foresee it being even better than it has been once we get past this barrier,” Eason said. “I really think that by the spring or summer, we’ll be able to pick back up where we were, (it’s just) getting there.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ElenaHubert25

Related Stories:

“A home away from home”: Jennifer’s Edibles celebrates hard work

BLACK MEN helps community members understand institutional racism

Everything Evanston: A year of loss and unity for local businesses