Honouring our values in the food we eat
November 5, 2010:
||We believe it is important to value the food we eat by ensuring that it is sourced ethically.
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ARC today launches a major new initiative to inspire a lasting change in attitudes among faith communities to the way food is produced, purchased and consumed.
Food in Faith is about faith communities recognising that eating is a moral and spiritual act that affects all life on earth, and linking what and how they eat more specifically to their values and beliefs. It’s about people of faith working together, through their daily food choices, to create a powerful global movement for a fairer, healthier and more sustainable food system.
Launching the Faith in Food initiative at the 15th Interfaith Festival of Faiths, Sacred Soil, in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is also one of the speakers, Martin Palmer, director of UK-based ARC, which was founded by His Royal Highness Prince Philip, said it was time to restore a sense of the sacred in food in everyday life.
Food plays a central role in religious life, through worship and celebration, in communion, Ramadan, Passover and prasadam. There is, however, another dimension to food. Our choices around what and how we eat are some of the most powerful we have in terms of their impact on the environment, our fellow citizens and other living creatures.
With up to 30% of an individual’s carbon footprint coming from their food, choosing planet-friendly food is the most important, everyday way for people to reduce their environmental impact, said Martin Palmer.
||Passiflora fruit being cultivated in Tanzania
“Every faith celebrates food as a gift of God, or the gods. Every faith knows that the just distribution of the produce of the earth is a pre-requisite for a just society. This is why they all have harvest festivals. Now it is time for the spiritual insights, which have become a little trapped in ritual, to shape the everyday lives of billions of the faithful worldwide, and especially in the USA,” he said.
“When we as believers ensure our food is sustainable, good to the earth, socially just and, of course, delicious, then we will have awakened the largest consumer revolution in history. One that is values led, spiritually based and could be critical in helping save life on earth – and not just human life.”
Faith in Food
Faith in Food engages the faiths’ moral leadership, purchasing power, investment portfolios and land ownership to help people rediscover ‘a right relationship’ with their food and the land it comes from. It works with the faiths to develop policies to ensure the food they purchase, provide or produce – in worship and celebration, schools and restaurants, retreats and conference centres – honours their beliefs about caring for creation.
And it promotes these values to the wider faith community as part of faith-consistent living. Martin Palmer said: “This way, together we can start transforming the world – one meal at a time.”
ARC’s Faith in Food programme co-ordinator Susie Weldon said many people of faith were already honouring their values in the food they eat, both in their personal life and in their religious community.
They include the New York-based environmental group Hazon which has a community supported agriculture scheme linking more than 2,500 Jewish households to 28 sustainable farms. Many churches run food donation schemes or provide soup kitchens for vulnerable people in their community, and faith charities are among the most active non-governmental organisations in developing countries where around one billion people currently do not have enough to eat.
“But we believe it is time to awaken the silent, sleeping majority who do not yet realise just how important their food choices are,” she said.
“When they do, the effects are powerful. In 2005 managers of the Methodist International Centre (MIC) – a hotel and conference centre in London, UK – were asked: ‘Why aren’t your eggs free range?’ This led to internal discussions about living one’s ethics, and the Centre is now a model of ethical and environmentally conscious sourcing.”
Susie Weldon said this was an example of what could happen when people of faith actively link their values to the food they eat or provide: “That’s why we believe Faith in Food could be the most powerful global movement in creating a more sustainable, healthier food and farming culture – with immense benefits to the environment, animal welfare and social justice.”
Martin Palmer said the “unique atmosphere and history” of the interfaith movement in Louisville, Kentucky, made it the obvious place to launch an international movement of faiths purchasing and producing food ethically and sustainably.
“The theme of this year's festival – Sacred Soil – reflects the wisdom in each faith that the earth itself is a dynamic part of the sacred responsibility of faithful people,” he said. "We know we each in our traditions have a focus on the ritual of food as sacred. Today in Louisville we ask the world's religions to release the sacredness of food into everyday life."
To read about how the event went, click here for our story.