For Granted– From Whence Cometh Your Food?

By Sharron R. Blezard, November 23, 2011


Have you started your preparation and cooking for Thanksgiving yet? For most of us here in North America, the meal will be a dandy one replete with family recipes, everyone’s favorites, and a table or buffet filled with delicacies. Even those who will be sharing community meals or serving in shelters and churches will enjoy traditional foods prepared by caring hands. Hungry yet?

Before your mouth starts to water, let me ask you a question. It’s one that I’ve been thinking about all day, ever since I took a look at highlights from The Bread for the World Institute’s 2012 Hunger Report released just yesterday.  Bread for the World does a wonderful job of raising awareness, encouraging faith-based activism, and lifting up biblical truths about hunger and poverty. If you’ve never visited their website, I encourage you to do so.

Oh, about that question. Do you know from whence cometh your food, my friend? How far did that can of green beans travel before ending up on your table in a holiday casserole? How much processing was involved in that boxed stuffing mix? Did your turkey enjoy life on the “free range,” or was it raised to be a top heavy Barbie-doll-of-a-bird mass-produced under pitiable conditions for this specific day? Chances are the contents of your dinner traveled farther to get to you than any of your friends or relatives, especially if you shopped at a big box store or major chain grocery.

Add to that fact the sad truth that many people think the food they see in cans, meat cases, and boxes is food reality. They don’t have the experience of tomatoes warm and fresh off the vine. What they buy in the store has been picked green, sprayed, and hauled hundreds of miles. That sirloin steak was once connected to a living, breathing animal. Whether its life was mostly spent being fattened for market in a feed lot or pastured and grass fed may not be clear. Most of us don’t farm and wouldn’t know what to do if someone handed us a basket and said our new job is tending and harvesting fruits or vegetables.

Yes, the situation is a complex one. Family farmers and fruit growers face increasing difficulties in getting food from their farms to our tables. Farmers are stewards of the public good and the environment. They take seriously their call to work the land and feed people. It’s a sad fact that America no longer grows enough fruit and vegetables to feed our citizens the prescribed allotment of five or more servings a day. Don’t even get me started on calling a teaspoon of tomato paste on pizza or a serving of french fries a serving of vegetables on a school child’s lunch tray.

My grandfather was a family farmer in the foothills of eastern Kentucky. His farm is long gone, but his legacy remains and reminds me why the family farmer is so important not only to the past and its nostalgia but also to the future of our country and its food supply. Mindful of that fact and the tenuous economy, this year our family tried growing a small kitchen garden (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and basil). Next year we plan to expand. We’re also trying to buy as much of our food as possible from local growers and packers. We’re lucky in central Pennsylvania to have access to lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Local meat, eggs, cheese, and milk are available, too.

As you gather around the table this week, consider the sources of your food. Remember the hungry and determine to share. Give thanks for family farmers and field workers who labor so that you may be fed. Finally, take time to watch this short film from Bread for the World called “In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Healthy Food to your Plate.” It may just change the way you look at food–for the better. Blessings on your gatherings and time together.

For more information about how you can move to more local food sources and learn more check these resources: Slow Food USA, Local Harvest, and Just Food.  For reading, try Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or Michael Pollan’s books and articles.

(Photos by clonedmilkmen, NatalieMaynor, and and Rosemary Bovard used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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