Check Please!

When global food shortages loomed 30 years ago, the Mennonite Central Committee asked its constituents to eat and spend 10 percent less on food. To help with that, the international relief and development organization produced More-with-Less Cookbook, which connects Christian faith with eating rice and beans. Eating more simply, cookbook author Doris Janzen Longacre argued, was not about “cutting back.” Rather, it meant “living joyfully, richly, creatively.”

[In] summer [2005], MCC released another cookbook that calls people of faith to connect values and eating habits. Simply in Season, which I co-wrote with Mary Beth Lind, promotes local, fairly traded, and sustainably grown foods, even if choosing them means spending more.

I approach these choices with no special expertise—I’m just an interested Christian consumer who wants to make decisions in line with my faith. And I confess that paying more for food goes against my North American sense of entitlement to cheap food and my inbred Mennonite frugality. My people believe thriftiness could give cleanliness some solid competition for that place next to godliness.

But what’s not to like about cheap food? Here’s the journey one devout penny-pincher made from spending less to spending for a better world.

Food is food? If one potato, pound of hamburger, or cup of coffee is basically the same as any other, it makes sense for conscientious consumers to choose based on price. Stretching dollars means having more available to help others.

For me the first step away from giving such priority to the cost of food came by seeing that each item has a story—and that the story behind one potato can be very different from another. Some stories are much more in tune with my values.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2006
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