This book provides a comprehensive theological framework for assessing eating’s significance, employing a Trinitarian theological lens to evaluate food production and consumption practices as they are being worked out in today’s industrial food systems. Norman Wirzba combines the tools of ecological, agrarian, cultural, biblical, and theological analyses to draw a picture of eating that cares for creatures and that honors God. Unlike books that focus on vegetarianism or food distribution as the key theological matters, this book broadens the scope to include discussions on the sacramental character of eating, eating’s ecological and social contexts, the meaning of death and sacrifice as they relate to eating, the Eucharist as the place of inspiration and orientation, the importance of saying grace, and whether or not there will be eating in heaven. Food and Faith demonstrates that eating is of profound economic, moral, and theological significance.
As we analyze the strengths and weaknesses of relocalization vs. globalism, consider the following.
- More than 90% of food is not produced locally
- It’s easier to get products to global markets than it is to local markets
Photo: Shalom Farms
There are some reasons why we are not producing and sourcing our own food and why it’s easier and cheaper to distribute food globally versus locally. I will address these paradoxes.
One major reason is political and related to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Historically, the USDA was instrumental in supporting food and nutrition for the needy, supporting small farmers and food education. In the recent past the agency has tended to be more supportive of the largest farmers and foreign markets. Big Ag gets significant financial and technical support from the USDA. New or beginning farmers get the least amount of support because of their size and financial stability. One farmer put it like this, “Big Ag controls politics and politics control the USDA.” There was a sense of hopelessness in his voice about affecting change at the USDA. I will not name this farmer.
I believe the only way to fix the problem is to develop and foster local food systems. Consistent distribution and efficiency at the local level is needed to gain favorable price points and access for local products.
Why is this important? The small economic food system is more sustainable. It creates greater economic resiliency in communities that have been marginalized by industrialization and globalism. Furthermore, we want local communities to have more control over their own destinies and traditions! Lastly, belonging and being rooted to a local place through its food is a fundamental longing that relocalization can satisfy.
Marion Nestle, acclaimed author of Food Politics, now tells the gripping story of how, in early 2007, a few telephone calls about sick cats set off the largest recall of consumer products in U.S. history and an international crisis over the safety of imported goods ranging from food to toothpaste, tires, and toys. Nestle follows the trail of tainted pet food ingredients back to their source in China and along the supply chain to their introduction into feed for pigs, chickens, and fish in the United States, Canada, and other countries throughout the world. What begins as a problem “merely” for cats and dogs soon becomes an issue of tremendous concern to everyone. Nestle uncovers unexpected connections among the food supplies for pets, farm animals, and people and identifies glaring gaps in the global oversight of food safety.
When I was in Rockland, Maine recently I toured the Farnsworth Museum there. Even though it’s known for its collection of Andrew Wyeth paintings, I was drawn to an exhibit by a Japanese photographer named Kurita. He recently had created a project called Beyond Spheres w/ photography focused around the idea “What if Henry David Thoreau was a photographer?” He describes the spheres that he’s trying to capture as land, water and air. In his book, “Walden”, Thoreau describes living life close to one’s natural environment.
Sense of place
The Farnsworth exhibit w/ photography and writings was beautifully executed. I love what was quoted on one panel.
“In a sense everything is connected in a relationship. Our current social environment is a competition for producing and circulating many products, while stripping the world of its resources. Our relationship to society and environment should not be a competition but a complimentary one, giving importance to harmony, and to a quiet and “simple shared habitat”.
I was surprised to realize how close this describes what I believe. And that I found it unexpectedly in a museum on a lazy day walking in a little seaport town in Maine.
The growth of large national chains have been driven by the desire of globalization and economies of scale. The consequence has been the industrialization of our food system with a collection of “too big to fail” agribusiness and food corporations. It has diminished the personal trust and relationship between those who grow our food and those who buy it. The emphasis on scale to expand market share encourages the competitive and predatory behavior of these large chains. So many of the problems today seem to stem from an addiction to growth at all cost (many of those have negative environment and social impacts that are often not understood).
Why do companies need to continually add locations in further and further out locations?
The idea of becoming really good at one’s local place and then going deeper and deeper with quality and service is an admirable thing. Instead of economies of scale we need economies of community. Economies of community can counter with a movement to create networks of farms, highly local distribution channels and motivated citizens all deeply engaged and connected with Richmond and the surrounding area. Such a system makes people a part of something greater than themselves; a community of human beings who choose to establish healthy lifestyles and a clean sustainable environment. The economy needs to be relocalized.
This better system is a more transparent smaller, local one that emphasizes personal connection and a sustainable community. Stay right in your hometown and become the best business you can be, all the while protecting the environment, treating your workers well and being sensitive to the social impacts of what you do. Emphasize community relationships with customers, vendors and collaborate with others in your segment. Support and get better together vs. the ruthless competition that is seen on the national stage. Collaboration among local independent food business, all focused intently on this special place can create efficiencies, more consistency and competitive pricing. Most importantly this inclusive and cooperative mentality fosters a stronger infrastructure that benefits the immediate area and community.