Columns

Sharing into security

I write this first column of “A Simple Feast” at a time when Minnesota FoodShare and community food shelves are in the midst of their annual campaign for food and cash that will stock the local food shelves for what is an ongoing and growing need in Minnesota.

A “simple feast” is difficult to spread for increasing numbers of households in suburban, urban, and rural areas of Minnesota. One in ten Minnesotans rely on food shelves. According to the March 2010 Hunger in America/Minnesota Study, 73 percent of the Minnesota households served by emergency food programs — pantries, kitchens, and shelters — are food insecure. They have limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods.

Several factors contribute to this problem. Over time in this column, I will explore varied aspects of hunger and its causes. I will also consider solutions — actions that we, as people of faith, can take to bring about systemic change. We can commit ourselves to reducing food insecurity and the many hunger-related public and personal health, social, and economic problems generated by food insecurity.

Eva Jensen

“We all pay the price” as the slogan for another public health issue reminds us.

In I Corinthians 12:26, Paul puts it this way: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

Welcome at the Table

Food unites us in ways that nothing else can. All of creation — cells within our bodies, the soils, plants, animals, and human beings — relies on nutritional intake for life. We share this planet with life in its abundance.

Food is also sacramental. We consume bread and wine, remembering Christ’s life among us and God’s love for creation.

And food is cultural. Feasts unite us in household celebrations, community gatherings, and festival or commemorative events. Food brings memories, invites new experiences, and unites us in traditions of gathering and gratitude that foster relationships; and it connects us to the earth.

When people do not have access or the ability to acquire safe and nutritious food, individuals, households, communities, and even nations are shaken. A September 2010 University of Minnesota Food Industry Center study reveals that the costs of tolerating a hungry population include increased physical and mental health care costs, increased educational program costs, and foregone wages and economic productivity. These costs total $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion annually in Minnesota.

Minnesota Public Radio quotes Jean Kinsey (September 27, 2010), director emeritus with the University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center and one of the study’s authors: “It clearly shows that the effects of hunger impact every single one of us — regardless of our position in society, our job status or whether or not we have a roof over our heads — and that investing in ending hunger is not only a commitment to humanity but a solid investment in the community.”

Growing gardens for all

This year marks the 29th year of the annual March fund and food drive of Minnesota FoodShare, the largest food drive in the state and an opportunity for individuals and congregations to invest in their community.

Congregations throughout the state are encouraged to run local food and fund drives to support their local food shelf. The idea is to strengthen local efforts to alleviate hunger. Financial donations go further at most food shelves because they buy food at lower prices through cooperative purchasing arrangements. Cash gives food shelves the flexibility to purchase food items they don’t receive as donations (such as produce, meat and dairy products, culturally-specific foods, and food for special medical needs). Additionally, cash doesn’t spoil or expire so it can be used throughout the year to keep the food shelf stocked.

To learn about and support the campaign, contact Minnesota FoodShare at: www.mnfoodshare.gmcc.org or call: 612/721-8687. Minnesota FoodShare provides campaign materials and promotes the drive statewide.

Sara Nelson-Pallmeyer, Minnesota FoodShare Director and member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, said, “This campaign supports 300 local food shelves throughout the state of Minnesota to raise money that they keep locally. Supporting the March Campaign is the first step. Emergency food is needed.” If you are interested in doing more, Minnesota FoodShare is implementing a new initiative called GardenShare. “We are encouraging congregations and companies to grow food and donate it to their nearby food shelf,” Nelson-Pallmeyer explained.

A simple feast is about abundant life. We all rely on food. As we move into the planting and gardening season, we have opportunities as families, congregations, and communities to learn more about our relationship to food, land, and one another. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

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