A Simple Feast, Columns

Addressing hunger

We gather as Pentecost people around tables of God’s blessing to hear the story of God’s love for creation — earth, air and water; soil, seeds and plants; creatures of the land and sea. We gather as hungry people to seek nourishment, community, and health, and to be reminded we are held in the body of Christ. To Christ’s table we bring our deepest hungers and we are strengthened to work for the life and health of all.

To further this life and health for all, both the church and the government have a responsibility to advocate for addressing poverty and hunger.

The charitable food programs of churches and non-government organizations in the United States provide only six percent of the support for people in poverty, according to a recent national study conducted by Bread for the World. These programs are part of the food security network that supports increasing numbers of people who are hungry in the U.S. The role of the church is significant; however, churches and other faith-based organizations cannot respond adequately to the human need and complexity of poverty that exists in the U.S.

Eva Jensen

Federal programs that address the human needs of the most vulnerable and poor in the United States are essential.

Federal programs that address the human needs of the most vulnerable and poor in the United States are essential. Our taxes support these programs that have been built over time in an effort to build food systems that will feed the hungry, support local farmers, and promote community democracy.

In mid-April, the U.S. House and Senate passed a FY2011 spending resolution that cuts funding for human needs programs as well as conservation programs that protect our environment and sustainable agriculture. Cuts have impacts. They can erode our moral fiber. Budget decisions are complex and can be polarizing. However, the national budget is a moral document and where we invest reflects our values.

In a February 6, 2011, StarTribune commentary, the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, wrote, “Taxes [are] the means by which we pool our resources, fairly and with order, to underwrite [our] common life.”

In response to the April budget cuts of Congress, a broad coalition of more than 50 Christian leaders representing a spectrum of denominations and aid organizations signed a joint document called “A Circle of Protection.” The leaders’ intent with this document is to protect programs that meet the essential needs of poor and vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. The Federal FY 2012 budget process may significantly alter, reduce, or eliminate many of these programs. “A Circle of Protection” and related resources of education and advocacy are available for you to support and learn more. See the Bread for the World website at: www.bread.org or at www.circleofprotection.us.

I encourage you to form congregational study groups, meet as Hunger and Creation Care teams, and organize forums to keep learning about these programs and the decisions that are being deliberated in Congress. There are no easy solutions, but hope and possibility are revealed in many places where people are making a difference by creating communities of collaboration and relationship in a common commitment to ensure food security for all. Our participation in community-based programs, as well as the state and federal budget debates and decisions, will make a difference.

Following are suggested readings and resources for you and your congregation to consider:

* Bread for the World Institute 2011 Hunger Report: Our Common Interest: Ending Hunger and Malnutrition. Bread publishes an annual Hunger Report, “Hunger and Poverty Facts,” and briefing papers on many topics related to hunger and development: www.bread.org/institute/.

* Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, by Mark Winne, describes and analyzes food insecurity and shows how our food system is marked by deep injustices that negatively affect personal health, community and the environment on which we depend for our food. The book is filled with stories of people who are working in different communities to create tables of food justice with room for everyone to enjoy healthy food and community.

* The Women’s Environmental Institute 2011 Organic Farm School summer classes will focus on farming and food justice. Courses are held at Midtown Global Market, Monday evenings, June 13-August 22. See www.w-e-i.org or call 651/583-0705 for more information.

Eva Jensen is an ELCA pastor who lives and works in the Twin Cities.

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