Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Does God Care About What You Eat?

In the Message translation of the Bible, the word, “food” is mentioned 212 times.  To give that a little bit of context, the word, “love” is in there 586 times, “obey” comes in at a 90 count, “faith” is mentioned 227 times, and “pray” makes an appearance 499 times.  Now, I’m not saying that they best way to find out if something is important to God is to count how many times it is mentioned in the Bible, but there is something to be said for the frequency in which the topic of food is covered.

There are several places in the Bible where God gives specific instruction about food. In the first chapter of Genesis, he gave man “every sort of seed bearing plant on earth and every kind of fruit bearing tree” for food. In Genesis 9, God told Noah (after the flood receded), “all living creatures are yours for food. Just as I gave you the plants, now I give you everything else”.  In Genesis 41, God gave Joseph specific wisdom regarding a coming famine and Joseph was able to take advantage of seven years of bumper crops in preparation for the seven years of famine that followed. God also gave specific instruction regarding food to the Israelites, His chosen people. In historical retrospect, we can see that many of those instructions protected them from common disease and food-born illnesses of the times.  There are many other examples of God's direct involvement with mankind's food, but in the interest of my own short attention span... I'll move on! :)

Food is mentioned in the context of necessity, refreshment, companionship, sacrifice, temptation, blessing, fellowship, offering, and lifestyle.  We are told to feed the hungry, to abstain from gluttony, to thank God for His daily provision of food, and to trust Him for it. Clearly, God not only understands the role that food plays in our lives, but as our Creator, He designed it that way. He provided us with a wide array of foods varying in tastes, textures, aromas, and nutrition. He gave us food, not only to provide for our nutritional needs, but also to bring us together, and to bring us pleasure.

I have done a LOT of research about food, food production, agriculture, and nutrition in the past few years and I am surprised by how little attention is given to the topic by Christians. I’m not saying there are not Christians out there who care deeply about the ethics of food (and have written about it), but they seem to be in short supply, comparatively speaking. It is far and away the secular groups that are leading the charge to improve the food system that we currently have here in America.

Our environment, the welfare of animals, the working conditions for low wage agriculture workers, our health, ethical practices in the food industry, our responsibilities as consumers… all of these things should matter to all of us, most especially those of us who claim to be Christians.  We really are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our Creator gave us many wonderful things on this planet to eat, but we have strayed very far from the natural buffet that He provided.  It just seems to me that since He made us, He probably knows best how to fuel us. Science has done a lot of wonderful things, but “improving” our food system is NOT one of them!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Livin' la Vida Local!

If you love to shop local and are proud to support your local farmer, wear it proud! You can help increase awareness and promote buying local just by getting dressed in the morning! :) Ok, before I go any further, and in the interest of full disclosure.... I must tell you that I am promoting my own product from Carefree Clothing Company, a t-shirt business that my sister and I have just started. It is our desire to provide fun and interesting designs that can also help raise awareness for important issues. Our first design is currently available for Pre-sale. You can purchase it now and it should ship out the first week of March. It is the "Local Life" design pictured here. The shirt is available in Asphalt and Chocolate and it is made right here in the USA.  
Please check out our online storefront, 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gardening is a Victory!

That's a beautiful head of cabbage, if I may say so myself!

I harvested my first ever cabbage yesterday! I have been growing a few vegetables at a time for a few years now, but this was my first cabbage. I have been relatively successful with growing tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber, and various herbs; all in containers. This spring I will be trying my hand at two new things in the garden… raised bed gardening, and starting from seed.  By making these two changes, I SHOULD be able to produce a lot more and spend a lot less in the process. But I must admit that I am a bit trepidatious about this foray into the unknown.

During WWII, every American was encouraged to plant a Victory Garden. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that around 20 million gardens were planted and that domestic production of fruit and vegetables equaled that of commercial vegetable production during the same period. I wonder what kind of difference we could make to improve the environment, improve our health, and alleviate hunger if we each began to grow more of our own food.

No matter how much, or how a small an outdoor space you may have… chances are you have enough space to grow some of your own food. It’s a great way to know that the food you are eating is fresh and safe. No need to worry about e-coli in your home-grown spinach! Aside from the nutritional gains of growing your own food, it’s just plain fun! I love watching the plants grow and the little tiny buds turn into growing squash, tomatoes, or peppers.

It’s also really nice to have that personal connection with your food. There is a wonderful sense of satisfaction and accomplishment making fresh food from scratch and even more so when you also took part in growing it. You may not have time to tend a large garden or the space for one, but try planting a few herbs to grow in your windowsill or if you have a patio or balcony… plant a tomato with some herbs in small containers.  You could plant a salsa garden (tomato, jalapeno, cilantro) or an Italian garden of tomato, sweet bell pepper, and basil.

I'll continue to update from time to time on my gardening experiences. Believe me, if I can do this... anyone can!!!! If you’re an experienced gardener, please feel free to share your experience with those of us just starting to figure it out! And if you’ve never gardened before, give it a try… spring is just around the corner!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dream the Impossible Dream

Since embarking on this little journey of mine and writing about it in this little blog, I often find myself wondering if it is really worth it. Indeed, my journey was delayed time and time again because I battled with the notion of whether my actions really mattered or not. I’m only one person. How does any of this make any real difference? I’m not going to put factory farms out of business because I’m no longer buying their products. My actions alone won’t improve the environment or treatment of livestock. Can one person really make a difference?

Despite my doubts, my reservations, my questions, and my insecurities I eventually decided that this was something that I HAD to do. It really doesn’t matter if it changes the world. It doesn’t matter if no one else gets it. It doesn’t matter if no one ever reads this, or changes their minds, or is pushed to think about things in a different way. It would be great if those things did happen, but the important thing is that to NOT do this would be to deny a part of who I am. It would mean turning my back on things that I truly believe in. It would mean giving up hope in a brighter future and a better world. It would mean that a part of the person that I was created to be would never even have the opportunity to blossom, much less grow.

When we are children, we are encouraged to dream BIG! Who ever laughs at a kid who wants be an astronaut when he/she grows up?  (Mean people, that’s who!) We think it’s great when a kid wants to be a scientist and an artist and a cowboy all rolled into one. But then we grow up. And we’re told to be realistic. Maybe not in so many words, maybe not by anyone in particular. But society tells us to grow up, and that is often just another way of saying that you should put your dreams in a box. Or at least, scale them back. Size them down. Make them fit expectations. Or make them profitable!

Maybe I don’t want to grow up. Because I don’t want to put my dreams in a box anymore. I don’t want to shrink my expectations down to size. I want to believe that I can do anything. I want to believe that change is possible. I want to believe that I can leave this world a better place because I was a part of it.

I believe that each of us has a role to fill. Each of us has been given a gift or gifts by our Creator and it is in His purpose that we find fulfillment. He is the one who gives us our dreams, our passions, our talents, our skills. When we deny those dreams and limit ourselves to what is expected of us… we deny Him the opportunity to use us to do good and positive and, yes, even BIG things. He not only gave us the capacity to dream big, but He will also give us the strength and wisdom and opportunity to do BIG.

I have no control over anyone else. (Shocking, I know!) I can’t make people read my blog, or care about animals, or change their behaviors, or improve their business practices. I do this for me. I know. That sounds selfish. But it’s not. Not only can I not control anyone else, I can’t BE anyone else. I can only be me. So, the best thing that I can do for myself, and for those I love, and for the causes I believe in, and for my Creator is to be the unique me that I was created to be. And part of being ME is to make this stand for things that I believe are important. The rest is out of my hands.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Politics of ...... Eating!

I’m coming to realize more and more how interrelated food and politics really are. Just think about life during the Cold War and the stark difference between free societies and those locked behind the Iron Curtain when it comes to food. People waited in line for hours in the former Soviet Union just to receive bread and other basics for survival, while those of us (ok, most of us) in the free world had ready access to a wide array of food choices. Even today there are definitive correlations between food availability and forms of government. Just look at the Koreas. In North Korea, now (thankfully) deceased tyrant Kim Jong Il allowed tens of thousands of his own people to starve to death during his lifetime due to poor food policy choices and the denial of international food aid. Just across the border in South Korea, however, food is plentiful and in abundant supply (though there are still those who suffer from malnutrition as in every nation of the world).

Here in the US, we often debate the roll and scope of government when it comes to food (and everything else). It is one of the great political divides in this country; do we need government to step in and regulate and monitor and oversee business, healthcare, education, and food (to name a few)? Or do things flourish best with a Laissez faire (in other words, the government keeps it’s hands out of it) approach?

Admittedly, I tend toward the belief that free markets work best. Communism is a proven failure, but that doesn’t make Capitalism perfect… certainly not in its present state. And I find myself conflicted when it comes to regulations and my food. On the one hand, I would very much like to have a food system that is regulated for safety, health standards, truth in labeling, treatment of livestock standards, work and safety conditions for employees, and environmental standards. But on the other hand, I don’t want Uncle Sam (which in 2010, he decided he could do so) telling me that I can’t grow my own vegetables or purchase raw milk from a local farmer if he doesn’t deem those options as safe for my personal consumption.

I also have issues with the federal government taking a more hands-on approach to regulating the food system when it is already sadly inept at enforcing the laws and standards which currently exist. And if the government is going to interfere with free markets, why does it choose to do so in a way that benefits massive agribusiness corporations at the expense of small family farms? Shouldn’t it be interfering to level the playing field for the little guy? Not siding up with Goliath by stealing David’s slingshot? [I’m referring here, in part, to subsidized corn (corn paid for with YOUR tax dollars) which benefits large factory farms (enabling them to keep their product costs down); small farmers do not receive these subsidies which means that their product prices must actually reflect the true cost of production.]

The FDA currently does very little to ensure truth in labeling and currently refuses to require any labeling for genetically modified foods. In addition, it does nothing to stop or even curb the use of antimicrobials in agriculture, something the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been urging them to do. Though there are laws in place to ensure that ground water and streams are not polluted by the massive amount of waste generated at CFOs (Confined Feeding Operations), they are largely ignored by the industry and often go unchecked by federal officials. There are labor laws in place to protect the health and wellbeing of farm workers, yet thousands are exposed to near deadly levels of ammonia in the air they are forced to breathe while caring for animals in CFOs on a daily basis. This exposure causes long-term damage and has even been known to be fatal, yet these issues persist.

And what really gets my goat is that the Right Wing wants to go into hysterics because the Obama Administration is requiring higher nutritional standards for our school children’s lunches! Really? That’s your line in the sand? Let it slide by that what can be grown in our yards can be deemed unsafe for our own consumption, but how dare you try to improve the nutrition of the only meal of the day that some of our nation’s children will have access to?  (Sorry, that is my rant of the day!)

So, I’m a little conflicted at the moment as to what roll the government should have in our food system and how much control the federal government should be allowed to exert. I know that I want the freedom to make good choices where my own nutrition is concerned. I know that I want the freedom to grow my own food and purchase it from friends, neighbors, and local farmers. I know that I want to know if the foods I’m eating were designed by God or engineered in a lab. I know that I want to leave this world in better shape than it is in right now. I know that I want animals to be treated with respect and dignity even if their final resting place is on a plate! I know that I want those who work hard to ensure that I have food to eat receive a decent enough wage that they can provide proper nutrition for their own families. I know that our current system is broken. And I know that I don’t trust anyone in Washington DC to care more about these issues than I do. So, that’s what I know.

I would very much like to know your opinions on this issue. How involved is too involved where the federal government is concerned? Is more regulation the answer? Is deregulation the answer? How can we as citizens and consumers do a better job of holding our leaders accountable? How do we move toward a more sustainable, healthier, environmentally better food system?

(Here is a link to The Politics of Dancing for your listening and viewing pleasure! You're welcome!)