As time ticks closer towards July and the first day of our year-long local eating challenge, I have wrestled more and more with why we really want to do this challenge. Beyond teaching my girls what it means to appreciate food that is grown in our own backyard, why do we want to embark on this journey? As I’ve researched the changes our family is going to have to make, my eyes have been opened to the accompanying limitations. And believe me, it extends way beyond not being able to eat strawberries in February. This journey will certainly challenge the ethics behind our food choices. But, as a Christian, I believe that this challenge will be much more than just an ethical test; it will be spiritual. Local eating will challenge me to see God in the way we treat His Creation, our bodies and our relationships.
I feel closest to God when my bare toes are swallowed up in garden soil. The mundane task of pulling weeds gives me ample time to listen, to be still and to pray. Seeing the first shoots popping up in springtime leaves me amazed at God’s faithfulness. Wandering through the vegetable laden tables at the farmers’ market forces me to thank God for how He provides. Flipping through a seed catalogue, scratching little stars beside all the plants I want to grow, leaves me amazed at a God who is not only creative, but also an artist. Growing food in my own backyard (or region) is not only a way to take care of my family, but it’s also an act of worship. Our responsibility is to treat His Creation as responsible stewards. Eating food that literally grows twenty feet from my back door is one way that I can be a thankful care-taker of God’s earth.
I had the privilege of growing up in a family that put a high value on making food from scratch. My mom was notorious for finding natural ways to fuel her family’s bodies rather than resorting to more convenient cooking methods. (As an example, the first time I ever ate Hamburger Helper was a year ago. My mom never bought Kraft Dinner. And the first time I ate a pizza pocket was embarrassingly recent. That being said, we were the only kids who, every morning for breakfast, drank a glass of kombucha, washed down with a mug of stinging nettle tea. Let it be known that this was way, way before kombucha was cool.) What this all taught me, though, was that having a more intimate relationship with my food and its ingredients was a way of honouring the body God gave me. The Bible refers to our bodies as “temples” and yet I am as guilty as the next person for not celebrating my body in a way that brings God glory. My hope is that by eating food grown responsibly in our region I can praise God with the body He has blessed me with.
Gathering around a table to eat is a practice that is as old as time. Unfortunately, in our culture, cooking food and eating together is becoming a ritual that is reserved for special occasions and holidays. Relationships fall by the wayside as busy schedules take over the precious hours between coming home from work and collapsing into bed. Preparing and eating food is becoming a solitary necessity – another task to strike off the to-do list. The sense of community and belonging is lost.
Yet one of the greatest gifts God has given us is the sacrament of coming to The Table. He calls us to gather, to fellowship, to partake of bread and wine. His Table is laid out with the gifts of God for the people of God. Lord’s Supper is called “Communion” in many churches. I believe that communion needs to extend beyond a Sunday morning observance. Our daily communion needs a revolution. We need to start re-encountering the communion found in creating a meal together. But more importantly, we need to re-prioritize the communion of sharing our food with those we love, those we’ve just met and those we have yet to meet.
You may have different grounds for choosing to eat local food. Maybe for you it is just about making a more ethical choice. Or it’s about supporting your neighbours. Or it’s about learning how to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Or maybe you also experience the spiritual connection between our Creator and the food we eat. Whatever your reason, let’s gather around a table together, give thanks and joyfully take on this act of responsibility.