Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Give us this day our daily bread: a just theology of food? part 2

Last week I began to sketch a just theology of food. I offered a short quiz:

  1. True or false: Wealthy suburbs are more likely to have fast-food outlets than poor ones.
  2. True or false: Healthy food is more expensive than fast food.
  3. True or false: 77% of Australians eat together as a family five times a week
  4. True or false: In Australia, more women are head chefs that men
  5. True or false: On a daily basis, women spend more than twice as long as men on food preparation and clean up.
  6. True or false: The biggest global killer is a disease called New World syndrome

(Answers, for those interested are at the bottom of this post).

My contention is this – that when Christians pray Give us this day our daily bread, we must pay attention to think about who cooks, who cleans, who eats what, and with who.

In the class I offered two resources. First, a story from Rebecca Huntley’s (Eating Between the Lines, of a community centre in Melbourne, which holds lunches that aim to bring postwar migrants together with newly arrived refugees. They share food, swap recipes and pass on tips about where to find spices. They also share stories, experiences of the joy and dislocation of migration. So simple – eating together.

The second is the book by John Koenig, Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation I keep mentioning this book, simply because people whom I mention it to keep coming back telling me how helpful it has been in their growth in mission. Koenig argues that

“we have seriously undervalued our church meals, both ritual and informal, as opportunities for mission … to realize this potential, we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, must have our eyes opened by the transforming presence of Christ at our tables.”

He provides a checklist on what it means for meals to become mission:

  • This is serving graciously with human contact. Koenig cites the example of one the busiest church food kitchen in New York, in which each volunteer is expected to find ways to encourage eye contact and genuine conversation.
  • This is setting tables, serving food, eating in patterns and places that speak of God’s abundance and creativity.
  • This is encouraging role reversals by finding ways for all, helper and hungry, to contribute through a diversity of gifts.
  • This is committing to a long-term, intentional project, a willingness to eat together a lot, because in that eating good things will happen.

Give us this day our daily bread is an invitation for all those who pray that prayer to consider what and how they eat. And it opens to door to a whole new way of being in mission – around tables, among strangers, with justice, generosity and humanity. Such is a just theology of food in the Kingdom of God.

1. True or false: Wealthy suburbs are more likely to have fast-food outlets than poor ones.

False. A study in Melbourne showed that poorer suburbs are home to 2.5 times more fast-food outlets than affluent ones. People in the health field have coined a term for this – an “obesogenic environment” – (Eating Between the Lines14) – the mall as a ring of fast-food, a suburb built for cars, with few attractive places to exercise

2. True or false: Healthy food is more expensive than fast food.

True, based on the use of a CSIRO recommended healthy diet, (Eating Between the Lines20) in which buying for a family of four in a supermarket a meal of lean steak, pumpkin, broccolini cost $20, while sausages, fries, baked beans cost $8.

3. True or false: 77% of Australians eat together as a family five times a week

True: Based on a 2007 survey of 1000 Australian families, which found that 77% eat family meals 5 times a week, the meal lasts an average of 25 minutes and that 60% of those meals were eaten at the table. (Eating Between the Lines, 51)

4. True or false: In Australia, more women are head chefs that men

False, census data shows that 77% of head chefs in Australia are men.

5. True or false: On a daily basis, women spend more than twice as long as men on food preparation and clean up.

True: In 2006, men spend 28 minutes a day on food preparation and clean up, while women spent 68 minutes (Eating Between the Lines, 71, 72)

6. True or false: The biggest global killer is a disease called New World syndrome

True. New World syndrome kills more people than famine or AIDS. New World syndrome is a set of noncommunicable diseases brought on by consumption of junk food as the result of rapid Westernisation and the way it changes food consumption and lifestyle of indigenous communities.

Posted by steve at 11:23 AM

3 Comments

  1. Hi Steve.

    Gotta leave a post on this one (being a former commercial cook & all, and a lover of food!). We have found that the services that have some sort of meal attached are better attended than those that don’t. A highlight of our liturgical year is our ‘Maundy Thursday’ liturgy that includes a simple meal (bread, cheese, cold meat, dried or smoked fish, fruits, dips and wine(of course)). The meal is the setting for the re-telling of the night before Jesus’s death with a simple eucharist celebrated within the meal: simple but deep, I think. To the meal is invied friends & family &, especially, those who are one the fringes. It is a theme that needs to be built on. Yes, we do undervalue the place of the meal in community. Oh, & steve, check out the organic market starting at St. Judes this Thursday. A good link, I hope. Bon Appetit!

    Comment by Chris McLeod — March 29, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

  2. That’s really intriguing Chris. We used to eat together with every service in our first church plant. It certainly added a whole new depth.

    Lynne’s been quietly visiting the market for about 6 months. We were wondering about offering a spirituality stall at it, but then we heard it was moving to your place. So have gone quiet on the idea – not keen to gatecrash on your sacred space :)

    steve

    Comment by steve — March 29, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

  3. Hey Steve. When we eventually catch up properly we’ll have a chat about a stall. I have some thoughts, but we are creating some space for them and seeing where the relationship goes. I’ll try and catch you at A.C.D when I’m there.

    Comment by Chris McLeod — March 30, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

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