Eating together means fellowship for congregations. And your food and beverages choices for these events can be part of your justice efforts. These choices affect people all over the world today – especially those in poverty, future generations, and all life on earth.

Here are some ways to learn about food and to take action:

The global warming connection to your food

Meat production

One of the most important things we can do is to reduce our meat consumption – especially beef.

Here’s the information:

Reducing meat consumption is good for your health, too. In fact, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and 28 other public health schools support the “Meatless Monday” program, a national health campaign to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. It provides tips about how to reduce your meat consumption and offers some delicious recipes as well.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow, states that animal-based agriculture causes approximately 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming – an amount greater than that caused by all forms of transportation on the planet combined.

Select seafood carefully, too

Here are two excellent summaries of the issues regarding seafood:

These guides will help you choose seafood wisely:

Study the issue together

Earth Ministry

Food & Faith: Justice, Joy, and Daily Bread: This book examines food choices through the lens of faith. In bite-sized pieces, you’ll learn to recognize and celebrate food as sacramental, consider the implications of your choices, and find help in embodying love and compassion in the wider world. Includes a study guide for groups and individuals.

Northwest Earth Institute

Menu for the Future: A six-session course exploring the connection between food and sustainability.

Unitarian Universalist Association

Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice

Take action!

Grow food

Of course, congregation members can [intlink id=”62″ type=”page”]grow vegetables at home[/intlink], but congregations can create or participate in a community garden. A community garden can be the nexus between Earth stewardship, food security, hunger relief, and community empowerment.

Some resources to get your house of worship started in planning and implementing a community garden, whether it’s on part of your organization’s property or a community lot…

  • How to Start a Community Garden — guidelines from the National Council of Churches of Christ Eco-Justice Programs
  • The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future have a variety of handouts and learning guides for many faiths and denominations.
  • The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3), North American organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times. They seek to develop self-reliance among all communities in obtaining their food and to create a system of growing, manufacturing, processing, making available, and selling food that is regionally based and grounded in the principles of justice, democracy, and sustainability.
  • Disciples Home Missions’ Return to the Garden project. The vision of Return to the Garden is to train Disciples how to address hunger relief, food security, and Earth stewardship through community gardening. From that website, download the Return to the Garden resource that shows congregations how to start community gardens and the community garden timeline for congregations
  • Friends of Burlington (VT) Gardens Toolkit for Community and School Garden Organizers – comprehensive resources, including planning checklist, sample guidelines, site designs, etc.
  • American Community Gardening Association. Many resources including: Starting a Community Garden, a fact sheet is designed to give many different groups the basic information they need to get their gardening project off the ground. These lists are in no way meant to be complete. Each main idea will probably trigger more questions, so an assortment of ways to carry out that idea are presented; pick and choose those that seem to apply to your own situation. Also check our LINKS, TOOLS, RESOURCES and STORE pages to find more helpful articles and resources.
  • City Farmer – A goldmine of urban agriculture information and resources; and its companion website of new stories including lots of videos.
  • Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life: Starting Up a Jewish Community Garden
  • Here are real stories from the National Council of Church of Christ’s Eco-Justice Network about congregations helping with community gardens, farmers markets and more!
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension has many useful resources for your gardening efforts.
  • Build your own Greenhouse. Danielle, whose after school program in Colorado is finding new ways to “grow your own” found this excellent resource for us.

And while you’re at it, help pollinators

We depend on pollinators for one of every three bites of food, but they’re in trouble. Here is a free ecoregional planting guide to help you provide habitat for pollinators.

Pot luck with a difference

Sponsor a vegetarian “Low on the food chain” potluck with a variety of great-tasting recipes that don’t include meat. Display posters with information about how meat production affects the world (as well as the fact that most Americans eat unhealthy quantities of meat.) Also, reasonable serving sizes and reducing waste.

Challenge your Congregation to Eat Local: Host a ‘100-mile Potluck’ – This Fall’s Adamah Challenge is to host a 100-mile potluck at your church. A 100-mile potluck is a communal meal in which participants prepare and bring the abundance of food grown or made within a 100 mile radius. This is an opportunity to support local farmers and protect creation. Click here to get your congregation involved. Every season, the NCC’s Eco-Justice Program invites churches to participate in a new Adamah Challenge-a simple, but eco-friendly act that can involve an entire congregation and raise awareness about the ecological problems we face.

Serve fair trade coffee

[intlink id=”93″ type=”page”]Fair Trade coffee[/intlink] is:

  • Fair Trade – for the farmer,
  • shade-grown – for the birds, and
  • organic – for the earth.

Teas, cocoa, and other items are also available.

Beyond the food pantry: Put your congregation’s kitchen to good use

Many kitchens in houses of worship are “industrial strength.” If yours is suitable, make it part of your food justice efforts. Many community members don’t have the facilities to can produce when it’s in season and inexpensive. Why not invite them to join in a community canning effort? Many of us have lost these food preservation skills, so you could also make it a teaching event. Perhaps your lcoal Cooperative Extension could teach a class at your facility. The benefits? A stronger sense of community, a deeper connection to our food, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and, of course, inexpensive, delicious, and nutritious food. For some ideas …

Go the Extra Mile in your October CROP Walk

Congregations enthusiastically support the CROP Walk to help stop hunger. Our personal food choices and national policies also affect hunger in the world (as well as global warming, water supplies, pollution, and so on). Take advantage of this annual focus on hunger to address these larger issues as well. For example, before sending your walkers out, serve a “low on the food chain” meal and discuss how this choice impacts others around the world.

PB&J Project

When is Peanut Butter and Jelly more than just a quick snack? When it’s the PB&J Campaign! This simple project can communicate a lot about the environmental impacts of our food choices. This would be a suitable project for the whole congregation or for children and youth.

Other resources

Thanksgiving everyday resources

These free resources from the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program are especially appropriate at Thanksgiving, but are useful all year. To download…

  • At the Lord’s Table: Everyday Thanksgiving
  • Our Daily Bread: Harvesters of Hope and Gardeners of Eden
  • You can also submit a prayer for Thanksgiving grace to add to their collection

The True Cost of Food video

You can get a copy of the 15-minute video and the discussion guide here.

Food for Thought

Launch the Food for Thought (And Action!) campaign right in your own congregation.

Bread for the World

Start a Bread for the World campaign.