This year I am challenging myself to dive in to sustainable food and work towards zero waste while I’m at it. Going zero (low) waste is an attempt to reduce the amount of trash and recycling we make through composting and moving away from packaged single-use products and towards reducing waste, getting creative with reusing our resources, and rethinking our approach to what we buy. I’ve taken some steps with eating and living sustainably over the last couple years, and my ideal expectations and reality has been a contrast stark enough to leave me feeling discouraged about my efforts. Over the last few years I have been cooking from scratch and have a handful of recipes and techniques I’m comfortable with, but many more so that I’m not. Honestly, I really struggle with cooking and being comfortable in the kitchen with confidence- my self-esteem has been my biggest stumbling block. A lack of inspiration, motivation, and/or discipline is usually involved in this, along with my intractable chronic migraine, anxiety, and depression that combine into a complicated relationship that could be best described as good intention with poor follow through when it comes to me and food. The first few years of my marriage consisted of tearing down instead of building up, and this is worth mentioning because home life impacts you a lot (obviously, but hear me out) and it makes it an entire added struggle on top of the usual ones that lead to lack of confidence with cooking. My husband has recently opened up to eating this way more, but the last few years have been a struggle for us to have peace with food in our home. He’s a picky meat-and-potatoes kind of guy who isn’t initially into eating lots of plants, but I’m trying to make healthy and hearty meals that we’ll both love. I tend to gravitate towards simple survival foods to sustain myself over things that take energy and effort to make good meals and this year I want to change that. It’s a new year and a new decade, and I am a firm believer in moving forward with courage and hope despite the darkness that makes those so difficult. That said, I am determined to discipline myself to be more intentional with making sustainable food more migraine-friendly with some chronic illness cooking hacks. Change is a process, and both healing and making healthy habits doesn’t happen overnight, but the process is stalled when we let our insecurities get the best of us and give up trying. No one changes by force, guilt, control, or anything but through loving awareness, understanding, inspiration and encouragement along with intention, action, and desire to change.
I am thankful to live in Humboldt County, California where the sustainable food system is growing strong, and access is available to everyone to participate in the pioneering of its normalization in some way- whether it’s cooking from scratch, growing your own food, shopping at the farmer’s market or joining a CSA, prioritizing buying local and organic when you shop, or even getting seasonal veggies from the food bank that our local farmers donate to. Food is so intertwined with many aspects of our lives- health, diet, demographics, agriculture and income are all related, and addressing these and the struggle to eat well on a beans-and-rice budget is a necessity. I live in a low-income community that’s around and below the poverty line that challenges and inspires me to help make awareness and access to sustainable food more attainable. A friend gave me a cookbook called Eating Well on $4 A Day that is full of recipes to fit a food stamp budget and has given me some ideas I hadn’t thought of before. Eating healthy on a budget isn’t easy, but eating healthy is for everybody and not just for the elite. I’ve shopped at the farmer’s market with nothing but my Market Match tokens before, and the $10 from my CalFresh card that turned into $20 worth of food tokens (dollars) to use would still send me home with a bag or two full of fresh produce from local farmers. Food insecurity and access are complicated issues to tackle, however, there are efforts being made to improve them and increase the availability of sustainable food. It requires some strategy, but healthy eating and homemade cooking on a budget are within reach (if you want it to be, and why wouldn’t you?). It still blows my mind that this used to be the way most people ate before food turned Industrial, and the food system is so twisted that eating sustainably has been seen as trendy rather than the everyday eating it used to be (and still is in many places).
My great grandmother grew up on a farm in West Iowa, and I remember when my dad used to grow tomatoes at our house in Southern California and I would love to go out and pick off the horn worms, which was the extent of my gardening until starting to do some of my own over the last couple years. I am inspired by my great grandmother’s memoir where she writes that “We didn’t have new machinery but tried to make the best use of what we had. We always raised chickens to dress and sell and also sold eggs to steady customers each Saturday morning. We had a big garden every year and did lots of canning of fruit, vegetables, and meat. We always milked several cows to have cream to sell. We started a herd of beef cows and managed to increase the herd as we went along”. I remember my grandma telling me how she harvested chickens by herself when she was still a girl and times were tough, and they cooked from scratch with what they had available to them. Although I’m not planning on harvesting my own chickens (anytime soon, at least..), I want to get back to my roots and eat and live in a similar way.
There’s no one size fits all and it’ll look a little different for everyone, but there shouldn’t be any shame or snobbiness in eating in a way that is better for the health of you, your family, the community, and even across the globe. My health journey has led me to healthy, wholesome sustainable food and the discovery that real food is medicine in so many ways. I have a complex relationship with food, and have found food freedom with a plant-rich diet that helps me manage my migraine better. A few years ago I bought the book The Humboldt Kitchen Gardener by local farmer Eddie Tanner and started gardening for the first time, and shopping at the farmers’ market every Saturday now is about as sacred to me as church on Sunday. I have read, loved, and was inspired by the book To the Table: A Spirituality of Eating by Lisa Graham McMinn, where she says that food is the medium of God’s love for creation, argues that eating feeds both our stomachs and souls, and reflects on the life-sustaining process of growing, cooking, preserving and eating food with more compassion, intention, and gratitude. I have experienced this to be true in my own life- the more mindful and connected I am to my food, the more I am wholly nourished and love being involved in the process of it. I have also been greatly inspired by Zerowastechef, Deannacat3 of homesteadandchill.com, and Hopehealcook’s Instagrams and blogs where they share some information about this sustainability stuff.
To eat sustainably sourced foods for the whole year (either local, organic, fair trade, pasture-raised, bulk shopping, good sourced, etc) and zero waste efforts, starting with where I am now and what I have, using the meal planning guide I created to come up with weekly and monthly meal ideas with seasonal, local produce, 1-2 meats/week, some cheese and other dairy, and bulk pantry goods.
However, I do want to mention that if food from others isn’t the most sustainable to the letter and it’s gluten-free and not too processed, I might eat it, although sometimes I politely decline. If I go to a potluck or someone gives us food, I think it’s more sustainable to sustain those relationships than to waste energy being concerned that I’m not being ‘perfect’ with eating sustainably. Because you know what? That’s not sustainable, and I know from personal experience. I prioritize sustainable food where and when I can, but being snobby about it won’t make you friends. Also, I go through bags of frozen berries I buy in the winter because health trumps zero waste and its important to not get so obsessed with it that we lose focus on what matters.
Some things I want to try this year include experimenting with new recipes, techniques, and seasonal food preservation, making a sourdough starter and using it for bread, pizza, pancakes, pie crust, and crackers, making fermented foods for gut health, checking out a Master Food Preserver’s class in my area, trying homemade pasta, making homemade kombucha, ginger beer, and scrap vinegar.
Where I’m at Now
I love that sustainable food is simple in so many ways. My general cooking doesn’t involve recipes often, but components- veggies, grains or legumes, sauces or spices, maybe some meat, and we go through butter like its nobody’s business. I’m a fan of dinner one night, lunch the next kind of meals, or I’ll try to come up with another meal using the leftovers as ingredients. Even when I look up a recipe, I almost always change something about it. I batch cook grains and hardly ever make a single serving of anything so there’s leftovers for later. I garden and grow what I can, which means mainly greens right now because I don’t get much sun at my house. I choose to buy local, organic, and fair trade as much as I am able to. I’ve been rinsing plastic produce bags and using a couple reusable ones I bought at the farmer’s market a year ago. It took a while but I finally figured out a way to lazy compost in my backyard, and I have hopes of starting a worm bin this year. I keep my reusable bags in the car with me and manage to forget them only occasionally now. I prep salad greens and try to keep raw and roasted veggies easily available in the fridge. I like to bake gluten-free goods but I want to experiment with more than just my small repertoire of recipes I’m comfortable with. I’m learning how to store produce properly (many thanks to zerowastechef). I eat a seasonally plant-rich diet based on what’s available in my area and try to use sustainably sourced meat as an ingredient rather than the main attraction. I’ve been making homemade vegetable and chicken broth from saving scraps in a bag in my freezer. I pick blackberries in the summer and am going to try to preserve some this year along with apples from a friend’s property, and have picked wild chanterelle mushrooms a couple times in my area and am going to do that more. I still use canned beans for convenience and have only tried making them from scratch a couple days ago (for which they were delicious in my sweet potato quinoa chili). I have been a jar keeper for a while now but am expanding my uses for them on my path to waste reduction. I own zero fancy zero waste gear, other than my reusable water bottle that I’ve had for a couple years. I’ve been slowly switching my seasonings over to glass ones I buy at the CoOp, and I’m going to use those to buy seasonings in bulk as needed. I tried making sauerkraut so far this year and it didn’t turn out, but I’m going to try again another time. I try to shop small, less and local, but there’s still a few things we’ll likely still buy from Costco, the Grocery Outlet or elsewhere because that’s more sustainable for us sometimes.
(a $3 bag of perfectly good discounted organic Swiss chard that turned into tasty sautéed organic ground turkey and greens, a new beloved dish to me).
I have to stop here and say that my husband is so supportive of me and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without him. He helps me with food often and is a good cook himself, does a lot of dishes, and sometimes spoils me with dinner and scrambled eggs n’ veggies on the weekends. It hasn’t always been like this, but the struggles have made these strengths even more sweet. I work part-time at Starbucks right now and my husband works a couple different jobs to provide for us. We are praying a position becomes full-time in the near future, but things have been a financial struggle since he has been without a full time position for the last year and we’re still learning to make it work on a tight budget. I’m not a fan of the $50/week budget meal plan because what I spend each week varies depending on what we have at home already and what’s available, and I find that I spend and waste less when I plan a few meals for the week and buy accordingly. It requires some knowledge and strategy, and sometimes I sub or go without certain ingredients if its too pricey. Previously I have been buying bulk things in packages but recently started buying some items in bulk and am getting comfortable with bringing my own jars and containers now (although a bit intimidating at first). I can get exactly the amount I need in bulk, it’s better for the earth by cutting waste, it saves me money (I can get double the amount of lentils in bulk as I do for the same price in a small package), and I can find just about anything in bulk from spices and pantry staples to extracts and oils, baking essentials, personal care products, and so many other things I wasn’t aware of (like dish and laundry soap). I watched Wasted: The Story of Food Waste and was challenged and inspired to make more of an effort to minimize food waste as much as possible, because there are actually solutions (so we don’t have to just feel guilty about the facts that 1/3 of all food produced is never eaten and that over 90% of wasted food in the United States ends up in landfills). Food waste is wasting our hard-earned money and contributing to a huge environmental issue, so I’m trying to do my part and be more intentional about avoiding it by buying less food, actually eating all of it, and composting to keep it out of the landfill.
My current plastic consumption to date to try to ditch and use a lot less of in my home consists of plastic wrap, plastic ziploc bags, and some plastic containers/tupperware that I reuse (because it’s not sustainable to throw it all away and spend lots of money to replace it with glass and other gear). My face wash, shampoo and conditioner, laundry, dish and hand soap are plastic bottles that I plan to buy in bulk when they’re done, and are all products that I’ve tried with little success to make myself at home. I have some other plastic in my home like my contact solution, some supplements and other things that are more important to keep than toss in the name of zero waste. I use locally made bar soap and coconut oil for face and body moisturizer and deodorant, and a bamboo toothbrush and natural toothpaste- I’ve tried making my own before and might look into other toothpaste options, but for now mine comes in a plastic tube and I’m okay with that. I plan on investing in a diva cup sometime, but tampons are probably going to be in my home for a while. I clean with vinegar, essential oils, distilled water, rags, and baking soda. I cut up cloth sheets I got at a thrift store that I use around the home instead of paper towels sometimes, but paper towels are staying in my home for now and using less of certain things is still more sustainable than to not make an effort at all because you can’t cut something completely cold-turkey. I have lots of room for growth in removing and replacing some things to reduce waste, and am going to continue with the sustainable steps that I have taken already.
Wanna join me in making a difference? Choose one or two small sustainable steps that you can take where you are right now with what you have, get comfortable with those for a while until they become more natural and habitual before choosing another step of change. Progress, growth and change happen in so many ways, and it’s so important that we recognize that they are happening even when we don’t see it right away. May we have the courage to keep taking each step.
My Cabin Kitchen + Container Garden
I have a small kitchen but it is equipped with everything I need to cook and create. We are planning on building a raised bed soon, but I have a little container garden for now (that’s not handling this wet winter very well). We have also been attending a new church that has a garden and has welcomed me to participate, so I’m looking forward to that experience and being a part of a community garden.
Sustainable Support + Simple Strategies for Success
“Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants”. – Michael Pollan
“To waste less food: 1. Buy only as much as you can eat 2. Learn to cook a handful of versatile dishes that you can add all sorts of food to- soups, stews, chili, pizza, stir fry, fried rice.. 3. Store food properly!” – Zerowastechef
“We need to shape a new mindset about the value of high-quality, nutritious food. Instead of leading with the intention of buying food because it is cheap, we need to lead with the intention of buying food because it supports our health and our environment- the quality of our lives” -Locally Delicious, 2019 Local Food Guide
“How about this? On the weekend- or whatever day works for you- you decide on a few meals for the week. You buy the main ingredients you need for those, cook one or two of the meals, look at what’s leftover food-and-ingredient-wise, cook something from that and so forth. Your pantry and refrigerator will tell you what’s for dinner rather than the other way around… Forgo the recipes. Learn to master the basics- roasts, soups, stews, and broths, braises, risotto, fermentations, sourdough bread. And of course, don’t waste a thing” -Zerowastechef
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces- just good food from fresh ingredients” -Julia Child, Quoted on Zerowastechef
“If you live with other people who don’t share your zeal for reducing your waste, you’ll have to make compromises. Unless you actually enjoy conflict. In that case, fight with your husband over using bar shampoo if that’s your cup of tea…. My younger daughter feels much less enthusiastic about all of this than I (but she hardly complains either)…. Choose your battles. I want my kids to require as little therapy as possible” -Zerowastechef
“Reducing your waste, cutting your carbon footprint, living more sustainably—they can become a grand you’re-not-doing-enough-look-at-me competition… We all want the same thing—a better environment, the mitigation of climate chaos, a livable world. We have to work together” -Zerowastechef
“Even if you do have access to bulk olive oil and you choose to buy it in a bottle at the grocery store—maybe you like the flavor better, it costs less or you simply want it—don’t beat yourself up over it” -Zerowastechef
“How can we improve the food system? What can I do in my own life? Eat organic, locally grown food whenever possible. Grow food yourself. Cook and teach others to cook healthy food at home. When dining out, choose restaurants that offer local ingredients. If eating meat, choose meat that is local, grass-fed and pastured. Use meat as an ingredient, not the main focus. Choose local and organic dairy products. Avoid GMO foods by eating local and organic. Check origins and ingredients on packaged food and look for foods made nearby and with ingredient names you recognize” -Locally Delicious, 2019 Local Food Guide
“With virtually no domestic recycling options for a sizable portion of the plastic the public tries to recycle, those watching closely speak of an industry in crisis. ‘Most people have no idea that most plastic doesn’t get recycled,’ said John Hocevar, the Oceans Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA, referencing a study which found that just 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. ‘Even though they are buying something that they only use for a few seconds before putting it in the recycling bin, they think it’s OK because they believe it is being recycled.’” –https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/21/us-plastic-recycling-landfills
“Collectively, we as consumers have the capacity to create lasting impact within our food system. “The seemingly small decisions we make in the grocery aisles can have a big impact on the world we live in,” said Jonathan Kaplan, director of the Food and Agriculture program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ‘From fighting the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections, to conserving water, and curbing climate change – our food choices can make a difference.’ With the release of the Good Groceries Guide, consumers are now equipped with the ultimate shopping companion to contribute to the shaping of a more sustainable, equitable food future” – Kate Johnson, https://foodprint.org/blog/the-new-good-groceries-guide-is-your-trusted-shopping-handbook/
The Good Groceries Guide- https://www.aspca.org/sites/default/files/the_good_groceries_guide_final_version.pdf
Visit https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org// to see what’s in season in your area and eat that. It also has some information on cooking and storage tips for each item.
10 Reasons to Buy Local and Organic- https://northcoast.coop/co-op_news/buy-local-or-buy-organic-top-10-reasons-to-buy-both
Check out https://foodprint.org to learn more about the food system and eating sustainably
Check out my blog for more information on sustainable food at https://wildlyredeemed.com/2018/09/30/september-is-local-food-hunger-action-month-and-the-perfect-opportunity-to-learn-about-how-sustainability-links-the-two/ and sustainable animal foods at https://wildlyredeemed.com/2019/03/10/animal-agriculture-sustainability-the-meat-you-eat-matters/.
Some Food for Thought from To the Table: A Spirituality of Food, Farming, and Community by Lisa Graham McMinn
“A good bit of hope infuses the food story as well. What is being called the Great (Global) Recession, which began in December 2007, wreaked a good deal of havoc around the globe. But the recession also sparked, as recessions and depressions in the last 150 years have consistently done, a turn toward home. Some people who were laid off found themselves with more time than money and started experimenting with raw, basic food ingredients. Even after the economy started rebounding, enough people had rubbed shoulders with others exploring good food options that they stayed with it. People tasted food they’d prepared themselves and were astonished, satisfied at having created something so tantalizingly good. Food blogs continue to grow in number and popularity every year… What began out of economic necessity has taken root and flourished. People from all social classes are seeing food industries as less as a solution for busy families and more as a troubling contributor to high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity”.
“Cooking is sacramental when we recognize that feeding ourselves and others is what enables our embodied souls to make and tend children; care for aging parents, friends, and strangers; plant and harvest; speak words of grace, gratitude, and forgiveness; fight for justice; and extend mercy. Any good accomplished happens because someone went into a kitchen to prepare food. We reflect God’s love for the cosmos even more fully when that food is also good for God’s sustaining earth and our neighbors next door and around the world”.
“Redeeming the word homemaker could be a starting place… Brandon, Michael, and all sorts of mostly invisible women and men are doing good work in their homes. They nurture the human spirit and body using hands, head, and heart. They help life to flourish- not only their own and their family’s but also the lives of their communities. Some of them foster all kinds of life above and beneath the soil as they tend gardens and grow food”.
“Still, sometimes it feels easier for me to care about children working in cocoa fields in Ghana than it is to care about my neighbor who lives next door… I can choose to only buy fair-trade chocolate and feel like I’ve done my duty to love my neighbor, which undoubtedly only scratches the surface. Jesus said to be neighborly to those near and far. What a peace-filled, life-flourishing world this could be if we would show affection by engaging our local and global communities in ways that tapped into our imaginations. Imagine living in a way that is rooted in awareness of this place as God’s created home, where our choices have consequences that affect neighbors, land, and the varied and brimming life in those communities”.
“It helps me to recognize that eating gives me daily opportunities to love my neighbors. That seems doable enough. But still, it takes intention to eat in neighborly ways; it used to be less complicated. Allow me to join others in making an audacious claim: the green revolution, which I referred to earlier as the so-called green revolution, is the biggest single cause of our food woes and contributes greatly to global injustices and misery. Is calling out a revolution that helped feed a billion people who might have otherwise starved grossly insensitive? Perhaps. But seventy-five years later, we are witnessing the unintended consequences of a revolution that morphed into a global agribusiness that puts profits before people”.
“Might this global industrial food system alienate us from our relationship to God’s verdant garden and from our neighbors in ways that not only allow invisible injustices to abound but also devastate the ecosystems that feed us? A fairly well-accepted idea is that the only way to feed the masses is through a global food industry (even if it is unfortunately marked by injustice and misery) that alienates is from each other and our places and leads to confusion about what is healthy for our bodies, our communities, and our world. Vandana Shiva, a physicist and international environmental activist…says, ‘For a short time the mechanistic mind has projected onto the world the false idea that food production is and must be of necessity an industrial activity. That’s a world view that is in profound error.’ She unpacks her thoughts on this matter before embracing the hopeful change provided by the local food movement, which is based on making good, wholesome food available to one’s local community rather than based on acquiring wealth at the expense of the well-being of individuals, local communities, and, particularly for Shiva, our planet… Shiva joins Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and other prominent voices heralding the need to bring affection, or love, back into the conversation about how we grow our food. Norman Wirzba sees our distorted relationship with our food system as a result of being a people in exile: ‘To be in exile marks an inability to live peaceably, sustainably, and joyfully in one’s place. Not knowing or loving where we are and who we are with, we don’t know how to live in ways that foster mutual flourishing and delight. More specifically, we don’t know how through our eating to live sympathetically into the memberships that make creation a life-giving home’”.
“A groundswell of folks manifest their hope that a local food movement can be a way forward-like the seven hundred small-scale farmers that come to Oregon State’s Small Farms Conference every year, or the 1,200 who showed up for Cultivate Kansas City, or the tens of thousands more who belong to CSA’s and community gardens and shop at farmer’s markets. Add to that the politicians and pastors, county commissioners, and city planners working toward healthier people, healthier communities, and a healthier world, and we’ve born ourselves a movement. There is always hope. The sustaining presence of God ensures it. Hope bubbles forth in corporate boardrooms, state capitals, and international assemblies. But it’s also simmering in homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Hope-filled change can start with anyone who chooses to eat food grown and raised closer to home”.
“The Earth Policy Institute, a nonprofit environmental organization, studies and analyzes environmental factors. They make policy and lifestyle recommendations to promote health for the planet and people in economically sustainable ways. In an effort to spread the word, the Earth Policy Institute makes all their research and recommendations available free online and in books and reports, which seem pretty neighborly to me. In one report, Lester Brown summarizes global diets and food availability and concludes that if everyone ate like we do in the United States, the world could sustain 2.5 billion people well. If we all ate like they do in Italy (more vegetables and grains, less meat), the world could sustain 5 billion people well. If we all ate like they do in India (a plant-based diet), the earth could feed 10 billion people well. The world population is about 7.3 billion. The explanation is more complicated… It’s based on how much grain is needed for good nutrition and whether or not that grain is eaten directly or first fed to animals that people then eat. A second part of the question about whether or not there’s enough food has to do with food waste, the amount of which suggests that plenty of food is being grown but a lot of it never makes it to anyone’s table. Wealthy nations tend to waste a lot of food”.
“So yes, feast away on special days, but do so in responsible ways. In Eat with Joy, Rachel Marie Stone talks about the difference between ferial (ordinary) and festal (feast) eating. When our ordinary days always include what used to be reserved for celebrations, then we really have to go over the top to create a feast. Stone says of her family: we don’t eat desserts most days, which heightens the uniqueness and specialness of birthdays, when we eat cake. Because we eat a lot of simple foods- beans and rice, vegetarian stews, soup and bread- a nice beef stew can be a celebration meal. It’s actually freeing to orient yourself toward a festal-ferial approach to food. It frees you from feeling that every eating occasion must be celebration-worthy, and it frees you to exercise your culinary creativity for days of true celebration”.
“As a fan of the backstory, allow me to enumerate some of those hidden costs that follow us into our kitchens, pantries, and grills. I mentioned earlier that since the Industrial Revolution we have increased shuffled food around the world…Some of this makes sense. It can be neighborly to buy each other’s produce, especially when we can’t grow it ourselves… But cocoa, coffee, mangoes, and bananas only grow near the equator. No matter how much we plead with the soil and sun, we can’t get them to grow in North America. So if we want chocolate and bananas to be a part of our diet, we have to buy them from our neighbors, which we can do in neighborly ways. We also move a lot of food around that grows in our backyards, just not year-round. We’ve come to like fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and bell peppers all the time. If it grows in July we want it available in January. That means produce has to be put on a truck, boat, or plane to get from warmer central and southern climates to cooler northern ones. Sometimes the reasons we move food to and fro make even less sense than simply wanting cantaloupe in February… nearly half of the fresh fruit we eat in the United States is imported, even though we grow a lot of fruit here…It makes sense economically or it wouldn’t happen. But it wouldn’t make sense if the environmental costs of burning all that fossil fuel were factored into the spreadsheet. So maybe it’s not surprising that the average plate of food in the United States travels between 1,200 and 1,500 miles to get from farm to table…”
“I’ve wondered how it can be so much cheaper to import food than to buy local food. Again, the answer lies in invisible costs. Some costs are borne by field and factory laborers at home and especially abroad, and others by cows, hens, and sows kept in overcrowded and inhumane conditions so as to keep our milk, eggs, and bacon cheap. We spend only 10 percent of our income on food because we don’t pay our faraway and nearby neighbors who harvest our crops and butcher our beef a wage that covers their own food, shelter, and clothing. We also spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than we used to because gestating sows spend their lives in pens where they can only lie down on their chests (an unnatural position) or stand. A pregnant sow cannot even turn around… this is called ‘intensive pig farming’, and it allows ranchers to turn a bigger profit than raising pigs in anything resembling their natural habitats or even something akin to Wilbur’s pigpen in Uncle Homer’s barn… learning the truth about these industries helps lift a veil that keeps us from seeing why our food is so cheap… Yes, there is good news. And yes, it really does make a difference”.
“‘We need to cultivate freedom, to cultivate hope, to cultivate diversity’, Shiva told the Kansas City audience. ‘We need to build the direct relationship between those who grow the food and those who eat it. Care for people has to be the guiding force for how we produce, process, and distribute our food’. That’s the hope and dream of the local food movement… Local food alternatives edge forward, making agribusinesses nervous enough to lobby for legislature that would limit what small farms and farmers can offer. Cities across North America and Western Europe are doing again what the majority world never stopped doing- selling goods between neighbors. This primarily takes place at farmers markets, where fruits and vegetables, eggs and cheese, honey and maple syrup, meat and fish, flowers and crafts, Tibetan dumplings, and Indian satay are bought and sold. In rural communities, small towns, and large cities, people are gaining access to eggs from hens that feel rain and sunshine on their backs, honey from bees pollinating local fruit orchards and gardens, and meat and dairy from animals grown and raised in county fields. Between vibrant farmers markets, community gardens, CSA’s, and a renewed interest in local farm stands and U-Pick opportunities, most of us can get a fair amount of our food close to home. Farmers and local communities are returning home from exile and finding ways to live peaceably, sustainably, and joyfully. These flourishing communities foster delight by eating in neighborly ways that acknowledge various memberships and obligations”.
“The local food movement is a global one, and I’m in good company when I claim that it can heal a planet in trouble. The movement is an aggressive form of lovingkindness that lessens the negative impact of conventional agricultural practices and relies on a guiding principle of neighborliness over profit. The movement will thrive or fail based on the links forged between local food providers and their communities. Farmers, bakers, ranchers, and dairies are ready to provide the alternative but depend on people willing to support their efforts by paying something closer to the real cost of food. Such supper requires aggressive lovingkindness- a desire to pursue justice, integrity, good stewardship, and sacrifice… In these movements lies the revolutionary power of the food movement: its capacity to upend a life-destroying belief system that has brought us power-concentrating corporatism… As the food movement stirs, as well as meets, deep human needs for connection, power, and fairness, let’s shed any notion that it’s simply ‘nice’ and seize its potential to break the spell of our disempowerment’”.
“I didn’t become grateful for the labor of farmhands and the sacrifice of dairy cows and honey bees until I became a farmer. For years I ate with no awareness of the work and sacrifices of others. Awakening to gratitude brought a hunger for just food: food gathered using harvesting practices that are defined by good husbandry- practices that mirror the Good Shepard- and good farming that mirrors the Creator who walked with Adam and Eve and taught them how to take care of Eden”.
“I’ve come to learn that scary things right in front of me are easier to stay mindful of than scary things far away… Might paying attention incline us to partake in abundance with hearts full of love-that is, with cleaner hands and clearer consciences? Once I opened the door of mindfulness, a mostly welcome discomfort wafted into our home. I want to believe that I live with integrity and compassion and am humbled when I see ways that I fail, ways that I put myself before all else. Sometimes I choose to turn away and ‘forget’ what I know because, well, I suppose sometimes I just want what I want. I am not proud of this and do not find my ‘forgetting’ particularly excusable. It only comforts me a little to know that I am not alone in this”.
“Looking back, I’d say my convictions lived in the realm of abstract philosophy rather than the flesh-and-blood realm of my kitchen… The frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things includes agribusiness. Yet multiple voices are rising, and the muteness is falling away, helping those of us who don’t know the true nature of things to understand them for what they are. Supporting humane harvesting practices of all sorts ends up being a remarkably simple way to wade through the complexities of our food system and to pursue justice and extend mercy. Intentionally making those choices makes visible the invisible members of our earthly community, on whom our well-being depends”.
“Take a deep, cleansing breath and imagine a better world. That world exists. In places all around the world God is about the business of making things well. People are working toward shalom- a peace that comes when justice prevails, when economic choices are based on affection or love rather than profit… In many counties across the United States, people can find farms that actually look and act like the charming ones depicted on numerous labels slapped over chicken thighs and breasts in the grocery store”.
“A food ethic that includes knowing something about the harvesting process adds an important element. The more we know, the more ethically we can choose to eat. And yet, while knowing more about where our food comes from and how it is harvested is better than just valuing abundance and access, ethical eating comes full circle when it draws us toward affection. Affectionate eating calls us to love God, neighbor, and creation through the daily choices we make that are related to food. When harvesting practices are defined by compassion, justice, and good stewardship, we heal broken parts of the world, coaxing out a healthier land, healthier animals, healthier laborers and, it turns out, healthier selves. All is being made well as people participate in opportunities to harvest their own food or support the good work of harvesting done by farmers and ordinary folk in their neighborhoods, communities, and towns”.
“I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and buy a micro-farm, work long hours, and plant hummingbird-attracting plants. Instead, I’m calling us to an awareness of God’s providence in the ordinariness of life, in both easy times and hard ones. Perhaps the most ordinary reminder we have is the food we eat multiple times a day. Maybe you will get inspired to start a small salsa garden if you have space in the backyard or add a planter for tomatoes on the porch. Maybe this awareness will grow in you a deeper appreciation of the fact that food comes from someplace else and requires some measure of work before it gets to the supermarket”.
“One doesn’t have to make money at a thing for it to be good work, nor does the work associated with food require one to quit a paying job. Keeping a home garden can also be good and meaningful. Work is good when it recognizes and honors our dependence on the earth, fosters collaborative relationships with other members of creation, uses our God-given creativity, and grants us freedom to choose how we work and what we do with the fruits of our labors. This is the opposite of work that alienates us from creation, causing us to use things of earth to satisfy our hungers without thought to the cost and harm for other members of creation…. What good might come if we helped each other think about meaningful work, about balancing vocation with pragmatics, about our sense of home and rootedness, and about our tendency to overvalue achievement? Not everyone has access to good work. Humanity has always struggled to create the kinds of economic and political systems that give everyone access to good work. Maybe it is idealistic to hope for it this side of heaven, but then again, maybe keeping a vegetable garden is one way to experience some of the goodness that is absent in many workplaces”.
“Loss of food sovereignty and the compromise of the ecological health of agricultural lands are two primary reasons for opposing GMO’s, but the one that has most captured the attention of people in the United States is the unknown effects of eating GM foods. We are consuming food made from crops embedded with a toxin that kills pests. These crops are then raised in a sea of herbicides that contain poisons the crops themselves have been bred to resist… How could that not negatively affect our health?… Studies about health and GMO’s are somewhat inconclusive but suggest links between GM foods and food allergies, cancers, obesity, anxiety disorders, and the increase of autism and other behavioral problems in children”.
“GM seeds continue to be most welcome in the United States, China, Argentina, Brazil, and Australia. It gives me pause when I realize that most of the world isn’t buying into the GM seed quite so readily as we have. Neither do they have as many lobbyists in the agribusiness working to keep states from passing legislation that requires them to identify food products using GM seed… So while there may be more awareness outside the United States that our life depends on seeds and that protecting them is in everyone’s best interest, seed saving and mobilization for political change are active in the United States as well”.
“In 2007, over five hundred people from eighty countries gathered for the Forum for Food Sovereignty…. One result was this declaration: ‘Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations’.”
“Eating is soul-forming, but it seldom shows up in a list of spiritual disciplines that encourage us to grow in grace and to open ourselves up to the heart of God. A spiritual discipline of eating seems as profound as practicing worship, fasting, simplicity, study, compassion, service, or celebration. Might it not wrap its way around and through many if not all of these endeavors?”
“Every time we eat we make choices that impact some part of creation, including ourselves. With the grace and power of God we can choose simple, soul-forming choices (which are sometimes costly), like buying only fair-trade chocolate or meat that comes from animals raised in compassionate ways. Or we might choose to eat less meat and more vegetables, fruit, nuts, and grains grown closer to home. Putting up a jar or two of dilly beans in the summer or raspberry jam or salsa can be soul-forming, helping us to be mindful of summer’s bounty come winter, of the sustaining power of preserved food when the earth has less to offer. Making room for people in our kitchens and around our tables forms our souls. Might even supporting local farmers and beekeepers and seed keepers of all kinds lead to soul-forming growth?”
“Soul-forming choices will likely lead us toward greater gratitude, generosity, hospitality, and maybe even truth-telling about little-known agricultural practices. But remember: soul-forming is not so much about you or me becoming more spiritually mature or somehow better people and more pleasing to God. Soul forming is about God. It is about recognizing and living out of God’s deep, deep love. In the recognition of such amazing love, how could we not love what God loves and want what God wants? How could we not long to see a world flourishing, becoming the fullness God envisioned? Dear God, make it so. Teach us to love what you love”.