It is based on a belief that access to food is a basic right; and global food systems should ensure that everyone has enough to eat, no matter where they live and how they produce food—from subsistence plots to large-scale farms.
Unfortunately, erratic weather patterns caused by climate change, conflict, and growing inequality around the world, and now the world-wide pandemic, mean that accessing food is becoming increasingly difficulty for the most vulnerable.
In our “Thanks-living”, we are all called to do something about that—Let’s do it!
Progression of Responses to Hunger
Traditionally, our first response to hunger is charitable giving; a valid and compassionate one in meeting people’s immediate needs. Our food banks demonstrate this well, as do humanitarian responses to disasters like famines.
However, as the popular proverb states, “If you give a hungry person a fish, you feed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.” With this sentiment, food justice advocates progressed toward the idea of food security, which means having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
In Canada, we see breakfast programs, community kitchens and gardens, and community food centres where food insecure people can get assistance in taking action themselves to address their food needs.
Internationally, in addition to food, agricultural aid is sent to small-scale farmers enabling them to improve their farming skills and techniques. We find sponsored expanded livestock ownership and kitchen garden building programs.
In one sense, food sovereignty affirms the idea of the right to food and food security. Yet it goes further and features the right of peoples:
to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and
to define their own food and agriculture systems; focussing on the empowerment of people to create a food system appropriate for their needs.
As well, food sovereignty recognizes
that the people who work the land are responsible for sustainably caring for and using the natural resources of land, water, seeds and livestock breeds
the importance of food providers (farmers, fishers, gatherers, and hunters—as well as those who transport, distribute, and prepare food). They should enjoy safe and dignified working conditions and enjoy an adequate livelihood. The role of women as the primary producers and preparers of food throughout much of the world is also recognized
the value of Indigenous agricultural systems and traditional knowledge in food production; and their belief that food is sacred.
“Back to the Land” program
At Hazelton Secondary School of Gitxsan and Kwakwaka’wakw descent, Virginia Morgan, as the Indigenous culture teacher, provides students with traditional Indigenous experiences such as
cooking, jarring and smoking fish
growing potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, onions, garlic, beets
hunting and processing the meat
Food sovereignty centres on the idea that broken relationships must be rebuilt, including relationships between people and the land, as well as those between producers and consumers. At the same time, it calls us to transform our perspective on food—from food as a commodity; to food as source of life and a right for all.
Reflection: “Answering the Call”
Around the world, more than enough food is produced to feed the global population—but more than 690 million people still go hungry. Many agencies and organizations are set up to answer the call to end world hunger.
Foodgrains Bank was
established in 1983, as a Canadian-based Christian
organization that provides food and development assistance to
people in need on behalf of fifteen Canadian churches.
Donations made by Canadians have helped Canadian Foodgrains Bank and its members provide over 1,000,000 metric tonnes of food to people who are hungry throughout the world.
Added note: The United Church and Anglican Church are among those churches, through Mission and Service (M&S) and Primates World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) respectively.
Action Against Hunger is the only international non-government organization solely focused on reducing and eliminating hunger and under-nutrition. They treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and also work to prevent hunger, targeting its root causes and enabling communities to build long-term resiliency.
Million Meals of Hope is a COVID-19 emergency response feeding program for children living-in-crisis situation in the Philippines. Many children in the poor communities and hard to reach areas there, are put in a higher risk of starvation due to this pandemic. These children face the long-term and irreversible impact of stunting, which is the ‘worst form’ of malnutrition. A powerful message is given through the photos and words of their music video
“Feed the Hungry.”
The call for us to care for those in need is found throughout the scriptures. In Matthew 25: 31-46, Jesus makes it quite clear that we are to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the unclothed, the sick and the imprisoned. In fact, Jesus is so identified with the needy that he says,
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Thus, if we want to call ourselves true followers of Christ, we must show compassion and spring into action for those who might be considered ‘the least important’—those often looked at as ‘insignificant’.
We worship a God who
is entangled in the suffering of humanity, in our sufferings and in the suffering of people everywhere.
who chooses not to untangle all the knots and problems of our world from the safety of heaven, but invites us all to be partners with him in doing so
When we join with Jesus in caring for others, miracles can happen. The story of feeding the thousands illustrates this
It was now quite late in the day—and the disciples interrupted, saying: “We are a long way out in the country, and it’s very late. Pronounce a benediction and send these folks off so they can get some supper.”
37 Jesus said, “You do it. Fix supper for them.”
They replied, “Are you serious? You want us to go spend a fortune on food for their supper?”
38 But Jesus was quite serious. “How many loaves of bread do you have? Take an inventory.”
That didn’t take long. “Five,” they said, “plus two fish.”
39-44 Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. More than five thousand were at the supper. (The Message version of Bible)
[parallel miracle of feeding the multitude with 5 loaves in all 4 Gospels; and a second miracle with 7 loaves later in Mark 8 and Matthew 15]
In this story, the disciples realized it was getting late and suggested that Jesus send the crowd away to find food in nearby villages. Jesus responded by telling the disciples to feed the crowd themselves. Imagine what they must have been thinking!
Jesus then had the disciples organize the crowd into groups and to prepare them for supper, seated on the grass. Jesus gave thanks for the five loaves and two fish and gave them to the disciples to distribute. Not only was the entire crowd fed, there were leftovers—twelve baskets full.
What does this mean for us?
One of the things that really stands out in this story is that Jesus told his disciples that they should feed the crowd. He didn’t say, “Don’t worry, I will take this,” but rather, “You feed them.” For us, that means that we are to have our eyes open to the needs of the people in our community and the world. We are to have a willingness to meet those needs. Our starting point is not to be what our resources are, but rather what the need is.
When we see a need, we must attempt to meet it.
Although we need to start with the needs, at some point we have to deal with limited resources. Even if the disciples had taken the initiative, they would have had to acknowledge that there were only five loaves and two fish. However, limited resources are not the end of the story. The disciples were never expected to feed the crowd in their own power. They brought what they had and presented it to Jesus—and trusted.
Limited resources plus Jesus equals more than enough
We are called to work with Jesus to follow the bidding of Isaiah 58: 7-8)
food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun. (NIV)