“We need to … reflect on ‘our daily bread,’ given to us each day, and think about our relationship, not only with food, but with each other, with creation, and with the Creator.”
– Wayne Groot, Living Ecological Justice, p. 33.
Eating locally and knowing where our food originates is one of the ways Wayne Groot suggests we reconnect with the land. Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God “give us this day our daily bread.” The Lord’s Prayer does not ask that baskets be filled with exotic breads and grains. It simply asks that God provides the daily portion of bread for this day.
When Moses led the Israelites into the desert, God provided manna and quail for sustenance. God commanded the people to only collect what was required for themselves and their families for one day. Whatever extra they collected would simply expire the following morning.
What does this suggest about contemporary sourcing of our food?
Imagine every grocery store arranged its produce section according to each item’s country of origin. Those rosy red mangos would have big Brazilian flags stuck on their mid-sections. The watermelons would have Mexican flags. And apples would have Chilean flags, just in case we mistook them for the ones grown in Ontario. Most stores already indicate which items are organically grown. What if they also told us which ones were fairly traded? Currently, the first items that greet me at the front of the grocery store are not locally grown or fairly trade vegetables or fruits. Instead, they are sale bins with discounted tropical fruit from large agribusinesses miles and miles away.
While we are enjoying these exotic fruits, communities across the world are suffering, having their land dedicated to growing cash crops for us instead of food for themselves. Much of the land used to grow coffee, cotton, or sugar cane for the rest of the world could instead be used to grow grains and vegetables for the local population. Knowing where our food originates should motivate us to eat within our region, our province, and our country.
Unfortunately, our local produce is often more expensive than what is being shipped from far-away countries. Of course, many fruits – such as bananas, pineapples, and kiwis – don’t grow in Canada and the fairly traded varieties also cost more. As Christians, we should consider the social and environmental costs of our food in addition to the financial cost. Where possible, we should endeavour to buy local food. We should also pay a just price for that delicious tropical fruit – a price that not only provides fair wages for small-scale producers that work the land responsibly but also includes an ecological dividend for the climate implications of long-distance shipping.
Living out our ecological justice calling is not easy. It requires radical self-sacrificing – as well as a willingness to pay a little more – but isn’t that what the call to walk in the footsteps of Christ is all about?
Certainly, one individual eating local food isn’t going to change the entire global food market. Nor will one household supporting fair trade transform agricultural practices. But each of us can slightly alter the demand for goods. Taking this small act for justice is like being a small grain of sand on a vast beach. We join to form something much larger. And together, our faith will move mountains.
This is the fourth in a series of reflections, contemplating the themes explored by contributors to CPJ’s “Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis.”