————————t————————— Small changes are deceptively difficult. We always tell ourselves we’ll get around to making them, downplaying their significance. Making a big change—ending hunger, for example—is really about imagining the impact of all of us making a few small changes. As Christians in a globalized world where extreme poverty and affluence coexist, we acknowledge our complicity and yearn for a balancing of the scales, so that each of us, everywhere, can receive our daily bread.
This prayer book attempts to address global food injustice by uncovering the spiritual roots of over-consumption, wastefulness, and anxiety that are fed through the simple act of eating. It is an invitation for us and our communities to nourish our own roots of mindful consuming and justice seeking. Hunger and thirst are concrete and immediate symbols of our relationship with God, with each other, and the Earth. Eating—or not eating—must be recognized as a spiritual act. The ancient practice of fasting is countercultural. While it usually refers to abstaining from food, the invitation here is to consider fasting more broadly to include voluntarily giving up the buying, having, or consuming of certain things for the purpose of hearing the call of God.
For a moment think about what you ate last night for dinner. What did you eat and why? We choose our food by weighing the calories, the price, and time involved to cook. Our stimulus to provide our bodies with fuel has developed to a place where food takes on social and aesthetic functions, becoming recreation, art, or even the subject of addiction. We might eat to settle our nerves, in joy or in despair, in boredom and in lust. We comfort ourselves, make ritual, and find delight in food. It is both a need and a want. Our meals range from deeply symbolic acts of worship—sharing the bread and the cup—to wolfing down something cocooned in plastic-wrap and dropped out of a machine. Our human experience of food is intimate and universal. Recipes, tastes and smells are laced with memory and tradition and connect us with every stranger who walks the earth. From its origin to its preparation, food is connected to the land and to particular people in particular places. Through it we taste injustice in the world: who has too much or too little, and who profits along the way. The divine gift of food has become a commodity, but first and foremost, we experience God’s delicious presence through it. Scripture references from The Message.
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WE WHAT WE EAT? ————————t————————— We owe our existence and our every movement to those carbs, minerals, proteins, cholesterol and chemicals available in the Garden where God placed us. We’ve never seen so much and so many kinds of food. Scanning the labels, our minds ponder long scientific ingredient lists for the valuable elements of our current mythology. Processed breakfast cereal is an example of how confused and obsessed we are with the multiplicity of information, losing much of our own knowledge of the goodness in whole, natural foods, and gaining a host of artificial colours and sweeteners—and a free toy inside. Are we finding value in our value-added food or simply a full stomach at the cost of taste and nutrition? Small change? Discuss with your household one whole food item you can add to your menu and abandon the packaged, pre-processed option. Prayer: God who calls us into an everlasting covenant, give us rich food for our bodies and our souls.
ey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything’s free! Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, lifenourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love. I set him up as a witness to the nations, made him a prince and leader of the nations, And now I’m doing it to you: You’ll summon nations you’ve never heard of, and nations who’ve never heard of you will come running to you Because of me, your God, because The Holy of Israel has honored you.” Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand. —Isaiah 55:1-6
The average Canadian consumes more than 2,900 calories per person every day, that’s 38% more than the World Health Organization requires for good health.
Just over 1 million Canadians shop at Wal-Mart every day. Distracted by infinite choices in low cost luxuries like fashion , DVD’s, cosmetics, countless electronic toys and plastic gadgets—we go through these items so quickly that our second hand stores have become burgeoning industries and our landfills are overflowing. Many have proclaimed such wastefulness as sin, and we are indeed guilty of it. Beneath every rationalized purchase is a justification that we can afford it and it is somehow beneficial to our lives. The reality is that we enjoy very inexpensive food, and can therefore afford to spend our hard earned cash however we please. In comparison many less wealthy countries are feeling the strain of rising food prices, paying 80% of their monthly incomes for food. What is the true cost of low food prices and who pays? Small change? Calculate 1% of your monthly income. Discuss with others how you could allocate this amount to promote food justice and end hunger. Prayer: God, who speaks through the poor, grant us the knowledge that we have enough, and the courage to seek You first.
on’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. —Matthew 6:19-24
We in Canada take advantage of some of the lowest grocery bills in the world, spending only 10.2% of our monthly income on food and drink.
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A NEW IMAGE?
A preoccupation with eating and looking a certain way pervades our culture. We are told by the media, the diet industry and each other, that if we look great, and fit the mould, we’ll feel great. Obsession with body image affects everyone—we share in the collective shame of failing to treat the body as a temple of the Spirit. The food that we are meant to enjoy instead rules over us. We are left lonely or estranged, with a deep yearning that leads some of us to compulsive eating or not eating, food fetishism, and fad-dieting. When we eat in such a way that honours our bodies and God’s plans for them our yearning is satisfied. By coming back to our Creator, in whose image we were created, male and female, we are made whole. Small change? Look deeply and recognize a craving— whatever it may be—as it comes to you. As honestly as possible contemplate its’ source. Share this with a trusted friend. Prayer: God who sculpts everything in beauty, help us to see ourselves through your eyes.
e continued this subject with his disciples. “Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more. Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. — Luke 12:22-29
The diet industry posts record profits, while almost half our country is considered obese, and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are the 3rd most chronic illness in adolescents.
EARTH as it is IN HEAVEN?
Our connection to the earth is more than just the resources we consume. The costs of eating a tomato, chicken, or cow are more than calories or dollars and cents, but include the impact of its production, processing, packaging, transportation, and disposal on the rest of God’s Creation. Was the air, soil, and water left richer or poorer for its cultivation? Choices we make now affect the present and future generations’ ability to feed themselves. At this unprecedented moment in history the world population and available natural resources are ostensibly at odds, and we in Canada fall squarely into the category of the ones taking more than our fair share. Changing climates here and across the oceans are a signal that we simply cannot continue to live this way, and live up to the responsibility that God has given all of us. Small change? Fast from food today as much as you are able. Do drink water, or if necessary, juice. Spend time in reflection with others or alone—outdoors if possible. Share a prayer for the hungry around the table over the supper hour. Prayer: God who plants and reaps, inspire us to tread more lightly on the Earth.
od spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
hen God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth and every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” And there it was.
od looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!
—Genesis 1: 26-31
Imagine a river that circles the globe 180 times. This is the amount of water it takes each year to produce the 7,000+ species of plants that are cultivated or harvested as food for the planet.
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FOR ANY ONE ?
The ritual of meal-time has suffered a devolution—it has become an archaic notion. Food is something portable and convenient that we ingest when we can squeeze it in between the many concerns fighting for our daily attention. Somewhere along the way we’ve decided that cooking is a non-essential skill, that eating together isn’t practical. Trading valuable time at the table and in the kitchen for TV dinners, vending machines, microwaveables and drive-thru windows, we want to be fed without schedule interference. Why? We have become extremely busy. In fact, we feel guilty if we are not busy. There is no longer any ceremonial requirement of us in our mealtimes save for a quick silent nod of thanks seconds before devouring our meal. Small change? Today whenever you eat, join with others and say or sing grace. As you eat and talk, do nothing else to distract you from the experience. Prayer: God who prepares the feast, stir patience and gratitude into our hearts.
isten to this, you who walk all over the weak, you who treat poor people as less than nothing, who say, “When’s my next paycheck coming so I can go out and live it up? How long till the weekend when I can go out and have a good time?” Who give little and take much, and never do an honest day’s work. You exploit the poor, using them—and then, when they’re used up, you discard them. God swears against the arrogance of Jacob: “I’m keeping track of their every last sin.” God’s oath will shake earth’s foundations, dissolve the whole world into tears. God’s oath will sweep in like a river that rises, flooding houses and lands, and then recedes, leaving behind a sea of mud. “Oh yes, Judgment Day is coming!” These are the words of my Master God. “I’ll send a famine through the whole country. It won’t be food or water that’s lacking, but my Word. People will drift from one end of the country to the other, roam to the north, wander to the east. They’ll go anywhere, listen to anyone, hoping to hear God’s Word—but they won’t hear it.
—Amos 8:4-8, 11-12
Canadians eat a fast food meal 3 - 4 times a week (twice while driving), and spend a total of 46 minutes each day cooking AND eating.
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ARE WE CONNECTED?
Tropical fruits like bananas, coffee, and chocolate are available whenever we want. It’s ironic that the majority of the people on the planet who are chronically hungry are small scale farmers, many who produce these items that we consume on a daily basis. Farming on a few acres for export rather than for their own families, many find it impossible to earn a fair price for their products. They are unable to compete with large multinational corporations that can access huge tracts of land, offer much higher volumes, and hence cheaper prices. Indebted countries often have no choice but to remove policies that protect local markets, and open their doors to a flood of foreign food in order to receive financial assistance. The very farm families that bring us our fixes, might be forced to sell their land and find work as low-paid factory or migrant workers. How can we be more mindful of these connections? Small change? Instead of your regular coffee or chocolate fix, choose the fair trade alternative. If the shop doesn’t carry it, ask them why not. Prayer: God who connects us all, make us hungry for justice and a fuller life in You.
his is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering illclad, being available to your own families. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places - firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. — Isaiah 58:6 - 7, 9 -12
From the field or farm where it’s grown to our dinner tables, the food we eat has travelled on average 2,400 kilometres passing through many hands along the way.
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FOR MORE? ————————t————————— Contrary to advice offered by TV personalities and trendy homemaker magazines, inviting guests for dinner is the simple act of sharing food around a table. It’s not about matching china and napkin sculptures. Ironically, it is the poor who remind us about the gifts of hospitality, which has nothing to do with owning the perfect house or being the perfect host. In our culture we tend to avoid sharing of ourselves and our space. But when we make room for others at the table, for family, friends, strangers and even enemies, we make room for God in our lives. Like the Eucharist, a feast is a time to celebrate the gift of food. We are invited to the table of communion every day to imagine new ways to live, move, and have our being. Small change? Invite someone new to share a simple meal with you this week. Prayer: God who invites us to the feast, challenge us to widen our circles.
tay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself. Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them. Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”— that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets. —Hebrews 13: 1-3, 8-9, 16
With some restructuring to our food system, it is possible for the world to sustainably produce enough to feed our entire global family.
TO FROM HERE?
————————t————————— 1) Shop Wisely: Choose and ask for fairly traded products and services that respect all of Creation. Avoid products subject to boycott due to severe violations of human rights, and labour rights. Shop first for simpler, less traveled, less packaged foods. 2) Speak Up: Communicate your interest in fairly and sustainably produced items to businesses that don’t offer them right now. Research where to buy alternatives. Talk to your friends, family, church, or other group about your learnings. 3) Give: Volunteer and financially support organizations like the Canadian Foodgrains Bank who are doing good work. Get together with a few friends and start a creative fundraising project to help empower others. 4) Share: Find out who your elected government officials are—MP’s and MLA’s. Write them a letter, email, or postcard to share your concern. Better yet, call them up and ask for a visit. Check out www.endhungerfast.com to find out more about ways you can encourage the Canadian Government to work harder at ending hunger.
5) Advocate: Write a letter to the Prime Minister asking for the Federal Government to make agriculture a priority in Canadian aid—by giving at least $500 million yearly, or 10% of CIDA’s budget within two years towards focused support for the small scale farmers who make up the majority of the world’s hungry people. 6) Learn: Cultivate a spirit of passionate curiosity and wise discernment. Keep yourself informed about the issues. Keep learning and share what you learn with colleagues, family and friends. 7) Watch: Peruse the internet, radio, television, newspapers, magazines and other media for signs of hope and struggle. 8) Dispell: Be a myth buster, avoid perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices about people, poverty, and hunger anywhere in the world. 9) Connect: Provoke solidarity and compassion for all hungry people at home and abroad. 10) Use: Consume God’s gifts of Creation wisely. Use less fossil fuels, energy, water. 11) Pray: For an end to food injustice, hunger and oppression.
HIS IS LARGE WORK I’VE CALLED YOU INTO, BUT DON’T BE OVERWHELMED BY IT. IT’S BEST TO START SMALL.
—Matthew 10:41, The Message
Canadian Foodgrains Bank 400-280 Smith Street P.O. Box 767 Winnipeg, MB R3C 2L4 1(800) 665-0377 www.foodgrainsbank.ca