Justice Kitchen

Last night I was able to go to a little food thing at a friend’s house, put on by a couple from California who run a couple of food organizations out there. The wife is a licensed holistic… health counselor…something… I forget what the title is but it’s something having to do with health and food. Anyway, they lead a house church in their home and also work with some of the social issues like immigration that are a big deal in California and the rest of the country right now. You can check out their blog, which tells about their current road trip, their church, and some of the other things they’re about here. Anyway, last night they were here in Charlotte giving a few of us a little class on food and how it can be used to further justice in the world besides just making a person healthier.

Increased focus on food and nutrition is becoming somewhat of a hot issue these days, with stores like Whole Foods and EarthFare becoming more popular, and farmers markets popping up all over the place. And that’s absolutely a good thing; nutrition is important and people largely don’t eat the way we should or the way we used to (and I’m including myself in this, I realize I am a gigantic hypocrite when I talk about eating the way we should. Although, I should say, we do eat pretty healthy at my house and I’m grateful for that.). Since the project for a farmers market I worked on in school last fall, I’ve gotten more into food and how to eat well, and I’ve been able to read a couple things by Alice Waters and Michael Pollan (his book, In Defense of Food, is especially interesting, and I have it if anyone wants to borrow it) as I’ve learned more about things like the Slow Food movement and what it means to eat locally and be more health-conscious. That’s not to say I don’t ever go to Taco Bell, but…

But here’s the thing that last night’s class was about: more than just eating well and being healthy, food can be a spiritual and a socially responsible thing (maybe those two things aren’t too different). As we gather to eat we are practicing the community that Jesus talked about so much, and as we eat and talk and laugh, it seems pretty obvious that we are helping to further the idea of what Christianity should be. A good life is built so much on community, and eating can be a big part of that. But beyond that there is a social aspect about buying locally, supporting community agriculture, and eating the right things in the right ratios. As we realize that impoverished people are the ones most hurt by unhealthy ways of eating (One of the things said last night is that you never see grocery stores in ghettos, it’s always fast food places and convenience stores. These places offer unhealthy food but it’s cheap and that’s what matters to people who don’t have much money. As someone who spent four years on a college campus across the street from government projects, I can confirm that this is entirely true. The closest grocery store was 10-15 minutes away by car.), we can see that if we begin to eat healthy and teach others to do the same we can help the issue of poverty. One farmers market mentioned last night in California even accepts WIC and food stamps, and it’s places like these that are helping to bring justice to the poor who need it so much.

I’m not saying food is the miracle cure to solve all problems. And it’s true, sometimes you just need a cheeseburger or a gas station hot dog. But there are things we can do, simple things, to cut down on pollution and energy (the astronomical amount of gas and packaging it takes to ship groceries to stores) and help bring justice to ourselves and people who share this world with us.

And plus, last night’s menu: Salad of greens, cucumber, heirloom tomatoes with a dressing we made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, pepper, and agave nectar. A mix of corn, black beans, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice. Green, red, or yellow peppers stuffed with a mix of brown rice, squash, zucchini, and hot peppers. Peaches with oats and some other stuff (I didn’t see what spices she used) for desert. All bought locally and fresh from farmers markets, and it all tasted incredible.

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