Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Simple Lent & Simple Food

If you live in North America, you live in the land of abundance. We have a staggering array of options when it comes to food. Just going to the grocery can be overwhelming if you shop at a store like Wegman’s (a store that was a guilty pleasure when I was on internship).

Maybe we have too much choice. Perhaps our choice has caused us to lose focus of the process of how our food is produced, processed, and marketed to us. Is it just to purchase a piece of fruit out of season that has traveled thousands of miles and burned a lot of carbon? Do we even remember how to eat seasonally, to put food by, or to support our local farmers and farm markets?

The shocking thing is that even in this land of  plenty, almost 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table each day. The average SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotment is $4 per day per person. In the United States alone, more than 16 million children live in homes where food is scarce. The situation globally is even more grim, and increasing hunger is likely to lead to violence as people fight over resources.

What can people of faith do? First of all, we can become more aware of the situation, especially in our own communities. You don’t have to look very far to find those who are hungry in your own home town. Secondly, we can examine our own patterns of consumption. How much do you spend on groceries each month? Have you ever broken it down by day and per person? You might be surprised. Now add the amount you spend dining out and on quick snacks and luscious lattes. It will be far more than $4 per day.

How might you simplify your consumption? How could you eat more responsibly and healthily? How can you find ways to work toward the elimination of hunger? For starters, check out the work of Bread for the World, for example, and become involved in being a part of the solution. Then find your local soup kitchen or food pantry and volunteer. Plant an extra row or two in your garden this year and give that produce to the hungry.

We decided during Lent we would simplify our diets as much as possible, increasing our consumption of legumes, avoiding processed foods, and continuing to support local farmers and economies. My spouse even gave up desserts for Lent. Tonight we dined on pinto beans, cornbread, and cabbage. It was a wonderful meal that cost only about a dollar each and was healthy and filling. We are also constantly aware of our waste stream and try not to waste food. Each year we are adding another raised bed or two, increasing the size of our garden.

Sure, these are small actions, but when we all take small steps good things happen. We have the capability to eliminate hunger in our world. To do so we must all be mindful of the choices we make and of how these choices reflect Jesus’ command to love our neighbors.

Here’s an idea! Instead of going out to eat, why not invite friends over for a shared meal. You provide the entree and beverages and invite your friends to bring a dish to share. You’ll have a good meal and an even better time. If you are adventurous consider a theme that puts an upper limit of how much can be spent on each dish. Keep it simple. Keep it real. Make it fun. Nobody said Lent had to be a completely grim experience.

Above all, pray for open eyes, open hands, and a heart that is willing always to share and set an extra place at the table. The Creator of the Universe deals in abundance. As the people of God we need to live from abundance, too.

Thanks-Living Activity

Be sure to check out this new film that premieres on March 1. You can find out more at bread.org.

Photos by David Shankbone and Natalie Maynor. Thanks!

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4 thoughts on “Simple Lent & Simple Food

  1. I think you are right – in North America we have too many choices. Perhaps if we had the choices our grandparents did, our food would be better and cheaper in the end. We grow some of our food and freeze it for the season when we can’t eat from the garden, buy local fruits and do the same and when we can, buy our meat from local farmers – but we are lucky enough to live in the middle of an agricultural community, so we have those things readily available. We are also too far from fast food to indulge.

    • Heidi, I just read a sobering statistic: “In the U.S., the birthplace of fast food, Americans eat fewer than 70 percent of their meals at home and less than a third of American families eat meals together more than twice a week…” (“The Advantages of a Home-cooked Meal,” by Tracey Roizman, D.C., published in the SF Chronicle, stats from an Emory University study). How lucky you are to live too far from the lure of fast food!

  2. Reniva R. Riessinger on said:

    Oh Sharron, if only people would do the things you mentioned here, it would eliminate much of the hunger in our world! It breaks my heart to think of all the starving little children in our world.

    • One thing I believe we have to do, Mom, is teach people to cook from scratch again. Faith communities with access to commercial kitchens in their facilities can offer cooking lessons, teaching people how to cook simple, cost-effective, and nutritious meals–and, at the same time offering the gifts of community and the love of God.

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