By Hannah Eves, Executive Assistant and Researcher at A Rocha UK and member of the Climate Sunday Steering Group.
Food is many things to many people. Food is a fiscal necessity, and it is a delicious and good gift from God. It sits at the centre of some of the Christian churches’ most treasured sacraments and teaching. During lockdown, the rate of people making their own sourdough starters has gone through the roof. And yet, for some, putting food on the table is a constant worry. The Trussell Trust estimates a 61% increase in food parcels needed this winter. Modern food production also plays a significant role in the climate crisis, with food systems placing huge strain on the natural environment. Issues of climate and of justice sit at the heart of food and eating.
All food production is reliant on and affects the environment. Many elements of global good systems are contributing to unsustainable environmental impacts which have huge consequences for the planet. Food systems account for an estimated 19% of UK man made greenhouse gas emissions and 76% of this is related to cattle production. When we eat out of season foods, there is a huge cost from importing the food from other countries and the energy required to produce out of season foods in the UK. However, it is rare that we pause to reflect on what is behind every bite. The commodification of food and the industrialisation of eating practices means that ‘people eat with a diminished sense of the depth and breadth of relationships that constitute a food item’ as theologian Norman Wirzba puts it.
Food is precious not only because of the human care that went into its production but because it points to the divine creator and sustainer. As it says in the Psalms, ‘He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate - bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.’ We eat in Christian fellowship, we eat as sacrament, all food is a gift from God and so, as the theologian Shannon Jung states, ‘eating is a spiritual practice that reminds us of who we are in the global ecology. Forgetting what food is means we also forget who God is, who we are, and the nature of the world we inhabit.’
This month, we’re focusing on how churches can engage with the challenge of Climate & Food. See our latest resource here to explore Climate & Food in worship, commitment to action and in joining with others to call for change.
Daisy Dunne, T., (2020) Interactive: What Is The Climate Impact Of Eating Meat And Dairy?. [online] Interactive.carbonbrief.org. Available at: <https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/what-is-the-climate-impact-of-eating-meat-and-dairy/> [Accessed 30 November 2020].
Eves et al., (2019), Thoughtful Eating: a biblical perspective on food, relationships and the environment.
Jung, L. Shannon (2004) Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.
The Trussell Trust (2020) New Report Reveals How Coronavirus Has Affected Food Bank Use - The Trussell Trust. [online] Available at: <https://www.trusselltrust.org/2020/09/14/new-report-reveals-how-coronavirus-has-affected-food-bank-use/> [Accessed 30 November 2020].