We need to advocate for a just and sustainable food system, a system in which fields and waters are protected, animals are humanely treated, and workers are safe and paid a living wage. To know food with depth, we need to know what is there, how it came to be there, what it is for, and why it matters that we have it in particular sorts of ways. (Norman Wirzba, Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, 2019)
What has led me here to the place where I feel called to advocate for food justice? I suppose my whole life has been a preparation. That’s too many years to recount in one blog post, so let me start with the last three months. You can probably guess that the timeline coincides with stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus.
With my church closed, our ministry of adult faith education classes was put on hold. The classes I had been preparing would not be offered. With Sunday Mass now online, I wanted to think about ways in which to worship and celebrate as a “home church.” I could mourn the loss of “receiving a host” at the time of communion, or reflect on the essence of Eucharist, communion, and sacrament. I wanted to celebrate the blessings of what I have and not merely what I lost.
At the same time, I was reading Mary McGann’s The Meal That Re-Connects: Eucharistic Eating and the Global Food Crisis. (see Favorites of 2020 on this site) You can see just by the title where that book led! I reflected on bread – what it is, where it comes from, how it gets to my table, and how I can share it sacramentally with those in my household. I could then connect with the virtual Mass in communion with those near and far with real bread – whole grain, home-baked, shaped into loaves. (With maybe a glass of organic wine or grape juice!)
McGann led me to Lisa McGinn’s “To the Table: A Spirituality of Food Farming, and Community”, and other works by Vandana Shiva, Norman Wirzba, Larry L. Rasmussen, and a host of others. My focus on bread widened to all food, how food is grown or manufactured, who really feeds the world, and why there are still so many people who are hungry and undernourished.
Until now, my advocacy has taken the form of teaching classes on ecological spirituality, Pope Francis’ Laudato Sí, access to fresh water, amid topics not closely related to caring for Creation. My classes in photography centered on paying attention to Creation. I am not sure what form my advocacy might take in next few months, but I feel that God is asking me to concentrate on ecological justice, starting with food justice, and to take action and not just talk about it. For the time being, I am continuing to read and study experts in the theology of food and eating. I hope to share what I am learning in future posts on this blog.