Food

I'm a Fraud (and So Are You)

I’m coming to terms with the realization that I’m a big, fat fake. But at least I’m in good company.

Amy’s birthday was last Sunday. We had just arrived in Portland, so we went to a fancy-pants restaurant, situated several hundred feet above the skyline, with a view of the entire surrounding city, the Willamette River and Mount Hood. We shared a bottle of wine, enjoyed outstanding service and indulged on gourmet food to celebrate her ever-growing tenure as an occupant of our planet.

The bill for the night was nearly enough to cover groceries for our family for up to two weeks.

We could manage it; we knew it was pricey before we got there. And it was fairly easy to justify too. We were making memories. It was an other step in the courtship, helping us fall in love with our new city. We had worked hard over the past eight years, establishing a church in Colorado, struggling to pay bills at times, and we’re now enjoying some material fruits of our labor.

What bullshit.

Seriously, how does anyone really justify spending that kind of money on one meal? After all, from our vantage point on the 30th floor, I could see scads of people below, standing on street corners, tucked in under sleeping bags and beneath cardboard boxes, walking wearily from one job to the next, hoping to pull together enough to make rent.

QUIRK: Geodesic Domes and Urban (Rooftop) Farming

Image of the geodesic dome rooftop garden via http://www.conceptualdevices.com
Image of the geodesic dome rooftop garden via http://www.conceptualdevices.com

 

According to our friends at Good.is, Buckminster Fuller'sgeodesic dome is making a comeback with urban farmers. 

A new dome-based prototype promises an affordable method of rooftop aquaculture for apartment and commercial buildings—as the website calls it, getting "fish from the sky." The Globe / Hedron bamboo domewould house an aquaponics system—a mini-ecosystem in which plants clean the water where fish swim and fish waste fertilizes the plants—capable of feeding 16 people year-round. The unique structure of the dome, designed by Conceptual Devices, would support the weight of the fish tank, enabling installation on flat roofs without adapting the structure of the building. The design firm is partnering with Zurich-based group UrbanFarmers, which developed the aqauponic technology, and they're currently fundraising on indiegogo to get the project off the ground.

Congressman: Food Stamps 'Enslave' People

Over at Think Progress, Scott Keys reports on Rep. Allen West's latest comments:

"West, speaking at the Broward County Lincoln Day Dinner this past Saturday, warned the crowd about the danger of food stamps for American society. “In the last 10 years,” West said, the “food stamp program that has gone from about $20.6 billion to over $75 billion.” The Florida congressmen saw this increase not as a society practicing compassion for its most needy, but as a more nefarious plot. “That’s not how you empower the American people,” West declared. “That’s how you enslave the American people.”

Read the full article here

Obesity in a World of Hunger

IT’S EASY to make the assumption that obesity is an individual problem, having more to do with personal health than with social justice. After all, people make their own decisions about what they put on their plates and how much they put in their mouths.

But many people—and many churches—are starting to see not only the public health consequences of the obesity epidemic, but also the broader forces that contribute to it.

And “epidemic” isn’t too strong a word for the growing problem of obesity. The numbers in the U.S. are unsettling, with startling increases over the past few decades. But the worst may be yet to come, as billions of people in formerly developing countries are gradually globalized into “fast-food nation” lifestyles.

The transition has already begun. According to a recent U.N. report, more than 1 billion people around the world are overweight. Each year excess weight and obesity cause 2.8 million deaths—65 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries where being overweight kills more people than being underweight. And it’s only going to get worse: According to Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, by 2030 as many as 5.1 million people in poor countries will die each year before the age of 60 from unhealthy diets and diet-related diseases such as diabetes, 1.3 million more than today.

The definitions of hunger and malnutrition are changing, and as a result so are the responses—but perhaps not quickly enough.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the cause of hunger was diagnosed by most officials as primarily a lack of adequate calories, and thus the response was a singular focus on increased outputs. But the diagnosis was at best simplistic—even decades ago, in a time of extensive famine, hunger was rooted as much in poverty and powerlessness as in a literal shortage of food.

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Work of Many Hands

Food-related coverage in this issue was supported by ELCA World Hunger (www.elca.org/hunger)
 

“Lord, you are good to all and compassionate toward all you’ve made ... You are faithful in all your words, and gracious in all your deeds. The eyes of all look to you in hope, and you give them their food in due season” (Psalm 145:9, 13, 15).

I often reflect on this message from Psalm 145 and how each of us will interpret it differently according to the experiences we’ve had in life. This is true even for the things in life that connect and affect us all.

Take, for example, God’s gift of food. We are interconnected by this thing that was created to nourish our bodies and minds, allowing us to function in our daily lives and permitting us to live a full and healthy life. Yet how often do we think about where the food we eat comes from?

When I’m at the store, I often wonder whose hands cultivated and cared for the plants that produced the piles of neatly stacked fruit and vegetables. Was it a Lupe, a Daniel, or a Jesus? How long did they have to work under the blazing hot sun in order to get the produce to the store? What are their stories and where do they come from?

I think about these things because I grew up with people who worked long, hard hours to produce the best quality of fruit for the market. Since I was very young, my immediate family has been immersed in agricultural work. My mother was a farm worker who picked fruit and vegetables. Once we children were old enough, we joined my mom and the rest of the labor force, which was mainly comprised of immigrant farm laborers. In the 19 years I’ve been around this work, rarely have I seen a non-immigrant hand in the orchards, and if I did, it surely wasn’t to help pick the fruit in bags that weigh up to 45 pounds.

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Nourishing Words

Food-related coverage in this issue was supported by ELCA World Hunger (www.elca.org/hunger)
 

Books on food and farming.

Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger, by David Beckmann. Westminster John Knox Press.

Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, by Norman Wirzba. Cambridge University Press.

Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture, by Mark Winne. Beacon Press.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan. Penguin.

Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, by Ellen F. Davis. Cambridge University Press.

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles. Ballantine.

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Diet, Exercise, and Temples of the Holy Ghost

Food-related coverage in this issue was supported by ELCA World Hunger (www.elca.org/hunger)


IS OBESITY a “Southern thing,” like drawling accents, gospel music, and excessive devotion to college football? Well, as a native Southerner, I have to admit that increasingly it looks that way.

Obesity is, of course, a national problem. In 1990, 34 states had obesity rates between 10 and 14 percent, but no state had a 15 percent obesity rate. By 2010 every state in the country was more than 20 percent obese.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2010 there were 12 states with obesity rates of more than 30 percent. All but one of them are in the South, and that one exception—Michigan—may blame its problem on the many Southern migrants it received during the 1950s and ’60s. And the closer you look, the worse the picture gets. The highest concentrations of obesity were found in six states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina in the Deep South, and the largely Appalachian states of Kentucky and West Virginia.

The causes of obesity are the same for everyone. You eat too much, you don’t get enough exercise, and you become obese. But why do people eat too much and move too little? As for any human behavior, the causes are complex and ambiguous, but the timing of the obesity outbreak suggests some answers. The upward trend in obesity began in the 1980s and ’90s, when cable TV became widespread in American households, encouraging a couch-potato lifestyle. This was also when the two-income family became the norm. With both parents working full-time, home-cooked meals were often replaced by fat-laden fast-food dinners washed down with giant servings of sugary soda pop. In the subsequent two decades, both of these trends accelerated, with widespread internet access making physical activity even rarer.

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Injustice in the Food Chain

IN THE U.S. food supply chain, 20 million workers labor in hazardous conditions for low wages. Uylonda Dickerson was one of them. Dickerson, a 39-year-old single African-American mother in Will County, Illinois, would show up every morning, hoping for work, at one of the many warehouses that litter the landscape of her area southwest of Chicago.

The Chicago region, once a proud steel and manufacturing hub, is now a major portal for food and other commodities produced cheaply overseas, transported by rail from West Coast ports, and slated for destinations in the Midwest or on the East Coast. Ironically, the workers—more than 80 percent of whom are African American or Latino—who were displaced from good, union jobs when factories closed are now employed in bad, temporary jobs, moving goods made in China.

The warehousing and storage industry, which feeds big-box retailers such as Walmart, relies on a pool of temporary laborers. This exempts employers from paying living wages or providing basic benefits and workers’ compensation; it also short-circuits worker attempts to organize into a union. Their costs of living are then displaced onto society. One in four warehouse workers relied on public assistance to survive, according to Warehouse Workers for Justice’s report “Bad Jobs in Goods Movement.”

On days when there was work, Dickerson was not paid an hourly rate, but by how many trailers she unloaded. She was sexually harassed by male colleagues and harangued by her supervisors for taking bathroom breaks. The job took a physical toll: “My body still is not the same,” she told a Huffington Post reporter. “I still have aches and I still have pains. I have migraines because of the stress I went through.”

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Give Us This Day Our Daily (100% Natural) Bread: Shame on Whole Foods & Aunt Millie's

I just discovered I've been duped.

This is painful, because I like to think I know how to read labels. I also like to trust products named Aunt Millie and stores named Whole Foods.

Alas, I forgot one of my basic shopping principles: Never trust food that calls itself "natural."

In label language, natural means nothing at all. Companies who use the term in their marketing are usually trying to hide something. I should have looked more carefully at Aunt Minnie's Hearth Fiber for Life 12 Whole Grains bread.

Here, I'll show you the inset up close. I read it as "100% natural whole grain," never stopping to wonder why the marketers bothered to point out that whole grains are natural (isn't that obvious?). But no. This bread is not 100% whole grain. It is 100% natural, whatever that means, and it contains whole grains. Twelve of them, in fact. But its third listed ingredient, after water and whole grain wheat flour, is unbleached wheat flour.

Utah Storehouse at Top of Mormon Food Chain

Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.
Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

SALT LAKE CITY — At the new Utah Bishops' Central Storehouse, pallets loaded with food wait to be ferried to locales near and far, their destinations handwritten in black marker on plastic wrap covers: Lindon, Ely, Mesa, San Diego, St. George.

Storehouse manager Richard Humpherys stops a golf cart next to one steel storage rack, slits open a cardboard box with a pocket knife and pulls out a can of peaches made with fruit grown at a Mormon church-owned orchard and processed at its cannery in Lindon, Utah. The can's label is stamped "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and "Welfare Services, Salt Lake City, Utah."

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