NOURISHING BODY AND SOUL
“Meals that are just – a prerequisite for true nourishment of the soul – are not easy to come by. For we must take into consideration who sits around our table (how inclusive and diverse our circle is); who raises our food and how; who prepares and serves the meals and how they are treated; and what we eat. By this standard, how many of our meals do justice?” – Ched Myers
There are not as many hungry people (calorie-deficient) in Gainesville, as there are those who are malnourished. Obesity is on the rise among people living in poverty, as are diseases related to poor nutrition like diabetes and heart disease. Second-hand, highly processed, and fast food – heavy in fat, sodium and sugar – are regular fare for people who do not have access to kitchens in which to cook. There are a number of ways to access free food on an emergency-basis, but it isn’t necessarily physically nourishing.
The other side of this coin is one that Christians are particularly aware of: the deeper meaning of gathering around a table to share a meal. Each week we pray in gratitude for our daily bread, the work of human hands. People in dire circumstances cannot experience the deep connection between spiritual and physical nourishment when their meals often lack both. As followers of Jesus we believe that the living Christ is present in the hungry, the thirsty, and the homeless. While institutions can be an efficient way to feed the poor, they can also be a barrier to meeting Jesus in our brothers and sisters – to sharing the fruits of our labor and the work of our hands directly with people in need.
Meals that are just are also mindful of the system that produces them. Our current food system has shifted during the last 50 years from a network of predominantly family-owned farms …to the current globalized system where a very few corporations own, manage and profit from the production of food. These “agri-businesses” are usually run by people who don’t live near the farms and have no vested interest in the well-being of the community. Profit is the bottom line, and consequently, the environment suffers as topsoil is depleted and run-off from pesticides and fertilizers pollutes local waterways. In addition, migrant workers and slaughterhouse workers are underpaid and working in dangerous workplaces. If our meals are to do justice, they must strive to sustain a system that treats both workers and the earth with justice.
As our understanding has evolved, so has our “food policy.” This is how we prioritize our food purchases (and gathering):
1. The best we can do is buy local food from farmers we know. This is the easiest, most sure way to know if food is grown in a sustainable, environmentally friendly, just way. We also use food we grow ourselves or which is donated to us from local farmers – some of the most generous folks we know.
2. Food that is “certified organic” and “fair trade.” If we don’t know the farmers, this gives us assurance that the food is at least meeting the USDA standards for sustainable growing practices.
3. Food from locally-owned grocery stores and businesses. We support small, local businesses, who are able to support local farms (unlike large supermarkets that have to buy from large clearinghouses).
4. Home-cooked food whenever possible. We believe there is a value in preparing food with care and skill for people we love. This is becoming a lost art in a culture where cooking is devolving into “warming up in the microwave.” We love learning and sharing recipes for food that’s grown here in North Central Florida. And we love cooking together with guests, visitors, and volunteers.
The following projects seek to share healthy food and companionship with people who are living in poverty – while supporting a more just food system:
DOROTHY’S CAFÉ – On Wednesdays from noon till 3pm, volunteers prepare, serve, and share a home-cooked meal in a restaurant-style atmosphere at the Green House (218 NW 2nd Avenue) for friends, many who are homeless or impoverished. Participants are needed to prepare the food, set the tables, and clean up afterwards. Children are welcome to participate. Preparation begins at 9:30am, serving between noon and 3pm, with ongoing clean-up.
BREAKFAST BRIGADE – Every Friday morning, members of the Breakfast Brigade meet at 4:15am to prepare boiled eggs, homemade bread, and fresh local fruit for 30-50 folks waiting for jobs at two local labor pools. Often homeless, labor pool temporary workers rarely have the opportunity or the money (due to low wages and irregular employment) to get a healthy breakfast before going out for a day of physical labor. Participants can donate fresh baked goods, or an early morning preparing and serving the meal. We’re back home by 7am.
Both projects are also in need of financial support, 100% of which goes toward food ingredients purchased from family-owned farms or local businesses, or grown in community gardens throughout Gainesville. To sign on or to get more information, contact us.