March 25, 2012

Food and the Politics of Eating

Eat this Bread  by the Taize Community, France
CHANTED: "Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to him and never be hungry;
Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in him and you will never thirst."

This song, a very simple chant to be sung during meditation calls our mind to a basic human need and desire, to be fed.Yet it isn't always so simple. We presume because we have enough others must too, and often they do. Except when they do not. But, doesn't the world produce more than enough to feed one and all. Well, yes it does, but no, it doesn't feed all. They call it food politics. In food politics a very complicated and messy issue becomes more obviously an issue of social justice, of equity and parity for all.

We all have a right to clean water and healthful food the world over, no matter what our status, but not all have the income or the access to obtain what they need, or they cannot produce it themselves. In my simple world there is a place in the country with a garden, an orchard, some livestock, and maybe some chickens-- all on a few acres. Producing good, organic foods for family consumption is as old as the Bible. True enough, but what if you produce food to sell your excess, or produce strictly for sale. Who do you sell to, what is their income and personal resources? Do you sell so that everyone comes to the sale on equal ground, with equal footing. Can the rich man pay the price for home grown, organic foods? Most likely he can and purchases what he chooses. Can that same seller afford to sell to the economically disadvantaged? Can they give to a monk in his begging bowl? Moreover, will the seller even consider to do this?

On a world scale, there is said to be enough land and food production to feed the world, yet millions go hungry. How can this be? Again enter food politics. Control and access to food stores is an old tool, and an ancient weapon. Political factions, party alignments, political will and might often conspire acting together, producing man-made hunger and famine. Again it's as old as the Bible. One group favors or disfavors another and in food politics, very often the losers starve. There seems to be no easy answer to a wide spread problem. And it happens in our backyard, in our town too. Everyday.

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