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Churches raise awareness on food sovereignty, justice issues

Food Week of Action, World Food Day to be celebrated next week

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

The Northwest Atlanta Marine Alliance (NAMA) is a fishermen-led organization is the 2017 Food Sovereignty Prize domestic winner. NAMA works to build a movement for a healthy ocean, a just seafood system, and community-based fisheries that are diverse, fair, and equitable for all. Courtesy of NAMA

LOUISVILLE – How does your church commemorate World Food Day? For some congregations, the day during Food Week of Action means a special meal offered to community residents who wrestle with poverty and hunger. Others use the annual campaign to promote what they’re already doing, such as community gardens or food pantries.

“Every year, I send out information to congregations and groups inviting them to co-sponsor Food Week of Action,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for national hunger concerns in the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). “Last year, there were 34 co-sponsors, while this year, we had double the number. People are beginning to realize that we need to work together and build a system where everyone has enough money to feed their families and where food producers have the resources they need.”

Food Week of Action (Oct. 15–22) is an opportunity for Christians around the world to address food justice and sovereignty issues. The week includes World Food Day (Oct. 16) as well as International Day for Rural Women (Oct. 15) and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (Oct. 17).

The 2017 Food Sovereignty Prize winner Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF) represents over 10,500 peasants. These smallholder farmers practice organic, sustainable agriculture to improve their livelihoods, and work for policies to protect their rights. Courtesy of ZIMSOFF

Kang Bartlett says the week also raises questions about people’s food choices, recognizing that there are companies that exploit the environment and workers in the food chain. For years, PHP has supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in its battle against corporations like Wendy’s, saying the fast-food chain does not provide adequate wages or working conditions for farmworkers who pick tomatoes.

Kang Bartlett is hopeful that churches will use this opportunity to remind congregations about all aspects of food and agricultural issues.

“One thing we hope churches will do is ask their pastor to preach on hunger and poverty,” he said. “These are issues that people of faith deeply care about and should be hearing about from the pulpit.”

According to Kang Bartlett, the world produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet.

“But because of the way we design our food system and the politics around that, a lot of people in the world are chronically hungry,” he said. “There are hundreds of people and great groups working to shift the way we feed people that are more sustainable and equitable. The response we’ve gotten to Food Week of Action this year represents people’s growing awareness of the need to address the profit motives that distort markets.”

Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church’s Community Garden in Milwaukee. Courtesy of Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church

Kang Bartlett recognized several churches that are involved in projects and making a difference in their communities, including Faith Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama, which is involved in the sale of fair trade products and the Presbyterian Coffee Project. He also praised Providence Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“This church invites people who are suffering from hunger and poverty to come and talk with church members about their experiences,” he said. “Folks there also support local farmers by purchasing shares at the beginning of the growing season, sharing in both the risk of being a farmer and enjoying the bounty of harvest.”

Kang Bartlett said Providence is also involved in advocacy and local food policy to build a more sustainable and a just local food system.

Ideas churches can use

PHP offers a number of ideas that churches can use to raise awareness during Food Week of Action. In addition to focused worship services, churches can take part in solidarity actions including the Boycott Wendy’s campaign, contacting congressional representatives in support of farmers and celebrating with farmworkers in Vermont. Last week, Ben & Jerry’s agreed to sign on to the Milk with Dignity campaign, which works to improve the livelihood of dairy farmworkers in Vermont and beyond.

For more ideas about how to engage in Food Week of Action, click here. Registration for the Oct. 17 Food Sovereignty Prize live online ceremony is available here.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is supported by gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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