Our culture encourages us to compartmentalize everything, to divide life up into neat bits of time, color-coded and meticulously organized, even our date-nights and play-time with our kids. But no part of human existence and activity exists outside the bounds of divine concern, including what we put in our mouths. Eating is a moral act, so dioceses and Catholic institutions must pay attention to food. It must become as essential as catechesis, actually a part of catechesis. There are many reasons why, but here is the most fundamental reason: faith shapes life, the whole of life.
The best Biblical source that helps us reject the prevailing compartmentalized view that eating is just something we do, not a moral act that God cares about, is Leviticus. Leviticus talks of family life, economic exchange, marital relations, right worship and dietary practice: not just what we eat, but how we cultivate and care, harvest and slaughter, buy and sell at market, and prepare our food (and ourselves) for eating. The whole of human life and activity is seen in the light of God, including food. We don’t need a new book of Levitical dietary laws, but we do need to foster a Levitical outlook that says: God cares about what we eat; so should we.
We know that God (and the Church) cares about our economic transactions and until very recently a simple economics of food existed: we bought it from the person who grew it or raised it. Simplicity meant injustice was relatively easy to see and confront. Our current food system (infinitely more complex than the system of our grandparents) makes it easy to hide injustice and shift blame.
We need to vote with our forks and eat locally. There are simple ways we can do this individually and institutionally. The Church cannot be silent about food because she cannot be silent about injustice. So do what you can to proclaim the good news that we can live our faith and eat it too!
Simple Steps for Putting Faith in Action:
- Consider expanding your concept of tithing to include it in your food budget by deciding to pay a little bit more for locally grown or sustainably produced foods – dairy products, meat products, and/or vegetables.
- Support local farms by asking your local grocer and department managers (produce, dairy, and meats) about supporting local farms. Support your local farmers’ market if there is one nearby.
- Think about adopting a “slow food” position by trying to have more meals at home, together as a family or with friends. Make meals from scratch and source ingredients as local as possible.
- Celebrate your favorite saint’s feast day by cooking a homemade meal. Take a recipe from Catholic Rural Life’s Cooking for Christ cookbook and offer a prayer for farmers and for their families.
- Start your own garden and consider donating 10 percent of your produce to someone in need or to a neighbor.
- Talk to your parish about purchasing food locally for parish events or for the parish school.
- If you have children, get them involved in cooking with you or gardening with you or going to the farmers’ market with you.
- Find out if your state or local community has a directory of local farmers that you can go visit and pick and purchase food. Many states have a directory of local farms that tell you where the farms are located and what products are available and when. Some nonprofit organizations also offer state and region-wide directories for consumers.
- Support local restaurants that are sourcing foods from local growers. More and more chefs are making an effort to source some products from local farmers, and may even highlight the farms on their menus. Let the chefs know how much you appreciate local sourcing when possible.
- Talk to your local and state government representatives about supporting local agriculture and local sourcing of foods.
- Become a member of CRL and keep informed about food and agriculture issues.
– Excerpt from Catholic Rural Life Magazine, Spring 2012
Editor’s Note: This article is a part of our “From the Archives” series. The series highlights articles, stories or news snippets from the CRL publication archives that are still relevant or thought provoking for us today.
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