This handbook serves as a resource for leading a discussion on Food Security & Economic Justice: A Faith-Based Study Guide on Poverty & Hunger. The Study Guide is created for individuals to read and reflect upon their own, but it is also suitable for small groups, particularly parish or church groups. In a time of rising food costs, and the real possibility of sustained high food prices for some time to come, poverty and hunger concerns will continue to challenge us as a people of faith.
As these concerns intensify, the solutions to reducing hunger will be broadly argued and examined. What is the best course of action? How can local communities stay informed and engaged while these debates take place among national policymakers and world assemblies?
An effective way to learn is to gather with a small group and thoughtfully discuss this critical issue. The problem of hunger is a particularly important one for the faith community. This Leader’s Guide, along with the Study Guide, will outline the steps to a significant discussion on how food is produced and who gets to eat.
This Leader’s Guide assumes you are already familiar or experienced in facilitating group discussions. Together with the Study Guide, this handbook is useful in grappling with poverty and hunger from a faith perspective, moving the group discussion along in a focused way, and keeping track of agreed-upon actions. More than anything, this is a guide for group action.
A word about our perspective: The Study Guide on Food Security and Economic Justice has a decidedly Catholic voice to it. We pull from the teachings and writings of the Holy See and Catholic bishops to explain our approach, but we also draw from other faith traditions as well. We hope readers of various faith-based traditions will find value in the information presented in our Study Guide and resource materials.
Food Security and Economic Justice
A leader’s guide for small groups
Food Security & Economic Justice: A Faith-Based Study Guide provides a process or way to examine poverty and hunger as it appears in our world today. This companion handbook is meant to help you, as a discussion leader or facilitator, guide a faith-based group through this learning process in a smooth and effective way.
The key is preparation. This handbook will help you prepare, both in understanding the content of the Study Guide and pulling together the materials and resources you will need for the group’s use.
Another key principle is to apply what we learn because “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). It is important for your group to conclude their study and reflection with an action. The Study Guide provides suggestions, such as:
• A prayer service or special liturgy remembering the poor and hungry.
• A church campaign on hunger and economic justice issues.
• A group or church effort to contact legislators about solutions to hunger.
When you have a sense of some possible courses of action, then you can begin to effectively prepare for a group discussion. That begins with a thorough reading of the Study Guide and preparing notes along the way. You will see various websites to check for more information about poverty and hunger.
This is not to say you need to become an expert! Gathering as a group and going through the Study Guide together is part of the learning experience for everyone, including you. It just helps if you are a step ahead with additional information.
Once you have a good sense of the Study Guide, then it is time to prepare for the group discussion.
Group Discussion & Dynamics
After welcoming everyone and introducing yourself, take a moment to let group participants identify themselves and briefly say why they are there. This helps set the tone of the group – and warms people up for a group discussion.
Briefly explain the flow of study session, including the amount of time for major parts of the session. (Approximate times are suggested throughout this handbook.)
Be aware of the difference between younger, perhaps student, groups and older, more informed groups. Adjust your style accordingly.
Set simple ground rules for discussion: all voices will be heard, all opinions respected, and no one should try to dominate the discussion. The leader will recognize those who want to speak, then terminate discussion as required by time.
NOTE: In the Study Guide, there are three kinds of discussion: the situation of hunger in the world, the teachings of the Church on hunger, and a call to action to end hunger. It is important for everyone in the group to understand these different kinds of discussion. As described in the Study Guide, the learning process is meant to move from Observing and Discerning (discovery of truth) to Acting (what now must we do).
Things You’ll Need:
• People who are interested in learning by discussion (up to 20).
• Three hours of time (either all at once with a break or three separate sessions centered on Observe, Discern, Act).
• Copies of the Faith-Based Study Guide on Poverty & Hunger (everyone should read the guide before coming together).
• A Bible, or the Scriptural passages you plan to use.
• Ethics of Eating and Food & Justice cards (available from CRL)
• Handout on Principles of Catholic Social Teaching (see end of this handbook)
The opening section of the Study Guide – For I Was Hungry (pp. 5-7) – creates a faith-based context for looking at hunger and poverty issues. It also lays out the process or method by which the group will work through the Study Guide.
This opening section briefly explains the three-part method of social justice action. Some know this as See, Judge, Act. In the Study Guide, we refer to it as Observe, Discern, Act. Take 5 to 10 minutes to review this process and let the group know how much time will be spent on each part. This could be roughly 30 minutes for each part equally, but you may need to devote more time upfront to review the situation of hunger and poverty, or to take the time to determine as a group what actions to take.
Sources to learn more:
Important Terms to Know are presented near the beginning of the Study Guide (pp. 8-9). These are upfront so that participants can get a sense of what they are about to study. Similar to a teacher presenting an overview of major terms or concepts, this section quickly goes through terms dealt with in the Study Guide.
It is helpful to know if people have heard these terms before, so ask them:
• Do you know what these mean?
• Are the explanations in the Study Guide the same as what you thought they meant?
This brief exercise will help you to know how familiar participants are with these terms, and how discussions will likely go during the study session.
Approx. Time: 10 Minutes
Helpful Hint: To learn more, search these terms on Wikipedia