But much of our talk about food centers around what's wrong with our bodies: we're too fat or too thin; we eat too much sugar or not enough protein; we have vitamin deficiencies and consume too much processed food. We talk about "healthy" eating, but is this oftentimes just another way of saying we want our bodies to be something other than what they are? Is "healthy" eating a stand-in for saying we want to be slimmer, more muscular, more attractive?
We have, in many ways, idolized a particular human physique. We've allowed our images of ourselves to be shaped by Photoshop and starving models rather than by by our loving Creator. In other words, we've got an image problem.
And so, I wonder...
How can we learn to love the image of God that we uniquely reflect? How would that change our attitudes toward food? How might that change our relationship with God?
Stewardship of creation
Our massive food industry contributes to a massive amount of wasted food - some sources say that 40% of food in America is thrown away. What this really means is that America is producing too much food - more than we can even eat before it goes bad. And that production comes at a cost. We can debate whether it's better for the environment to eat organic or local, vegan or raw, but what it all boils down to is the fact that all food production requires natural resources (some uses being more harmful to the environment than others), and wasted food is wasted God-given earth.
There are, of course, considerations to be made as to how massive food production harms the environment through the use of chemicals, insufficient biodiversity, and any number of other techniques (remember, I'm a theologian, not a scientist). The most faithful alternative is not simple to discern. However, I think an awareness of food - its origins, its production, and its impact on us and God's world - is a faithful practice. We all can't completely reform the way we eat and the way food is produced overnight, but raising our own awareness of the way our food comes to us is a beginning. You wouldn't expect to become as selfless and compassionate as Mother Teresa, but that shouldn't stop you from engaging with the pain of the world and becoming more aware of people's suffering.
Structural ( corporate, institutional) sin
Call it what you will, but The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines this as "the recognition that the power of human sin affects institutions and structures of a society in pervasive ways so that the processes and actions of these entities will be influenced." In other words, we can't just blame the corporations for our faithless food. These corporations are made up of sinful people, and our own faithlessness seeps into the food production system.
And this makes sense when we look at food trends. As people have become more aware and concerned about eating faithfully (practicing stewardship of the earth and care of their bodies), food production and distribution has been affected. Major grocery chains now carry a multitude of natural and organic, fair trade and environmentally-friendly products. As we redeem our eating, the corporation follows suit. As we eat faithlessly, our food production responds.
Loving our neighbors
Given our food production capabilities and the amount of food we waste, you'd think we could easily feed the world. Well, yes and no. Given transportation and trade agreements and various government regulations, I doubt it would be easy. But given our food production capabilities, I imagine we could feed the world. And yet, according to recent statistics, almost 850 million people in this world do not have enough to eat. Poverty is the number one cause of hunger, and most people who are malnourished live in developing countries. Government corruption, conflict, and climate change also effect nutrition. In the U.S., over 14% of households experiences food insecurity (not knowing what or when they will eat next) annually.
Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me food," explaining that when we feed the "least of these" we are caring for Christ himself.
So, I am wondering...
What concerns you about how your food is produced? What about it feels unfaithful?
How can you practice awareness of your food and its production? What can you do to redeem your eating and therefore participate in the redemption of our food systems and structures?
How can you love your neighbor by feeding them? Better yet, who might you eat with, as Jesus did, to show God's love?