An estimated 925 million people globally will go hungry today. Seven billion people share the planet and by 2050 the world’s population is expected to increase to 9 billion people. This increase will put enormous pressure on global food capacity. Added to that, more people in Western-style and growing economies are adopting a high calorie, meat-based diet, and the price of staples - like corn used for cattle feed - continue to rise as a proportion of daily living expenses for the poor.
Environmental degradation and crop damage due to climate change, the rise of biofuels, and agricultural distortions due to export farming add to the instability of local food cultures, creating conditions of increased food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.
Why are hunger and food security issues of faith?
In Matthew 25:35 and 25:40, Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…..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.”
In this compelling scripture, Jesus includes even those we do not know as those with whom we must share our food, our water, and our welcome. He does not distinguish between the “deserving’ or undeserving” poor, nor does he make a distinction between those who live close to us and those who may live in other places. He calls all his followers to share what we have and to work towards a time when all people have enough food and water for their needs.
In 2009, the General Synod of the UCC passed a resolution on the Global Food Crisis, calling on the church “to advocate for strengthening sustainable agricultural and fishing practices.”
In 2011, the General Synod of the UCC passed a Resolution for Mindful and Healthy Eating, challenging our members and congregations to explore and discuss how food choices can accord with Christian values and beliefs.
Hunger Free Schools: Enroll Your Community by June 30
Nearly 16 million American children are at risk of hunger. Poor nutrition and hunger have the greatest repercussions in children, who may experience lifelong complications as a result of hunger during childhood. Children in food insecure households are more likely to have slower cognitive development, greater learning and academic difficulties, increased school absenteeism and tardiness, and poorer general health and higher probability of hospitalization. Fortunately, there are many child nutrition programs that can improve food security to households with children. In particular, the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows schools to ensure that low-income families in high-poverty areas have full access to school meals.
What Is Community Eligibility?
The CEP allows schools in high-poverty areas to eliminate the traditional school meal application process and offer breakfast and lunches to all students. Any school with 40% or more “identified students” can participate in CEP. CEP increases overall participation in school nutrition programs, reduces administrative paperwork, and helps the school nutrition department’s bottom line. CEP was originally included as an unprecedented program by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Individual schools or entire districts may enroll in CEP, which has been immensely successful in 7 states over the last few years. CEP will be available for all states in the 2014-2015 school year.
The deadline to enroll for the upcoming school year is June 30. Get involved now to make sure your community has time to enroll. The links below offer several ways to encourage your community leaders to check your area’s eligibility and get schools or even entire districts enrolled. You may consider reaching out to your district’s Superintendent, School Board, PTA, City Council, or placing an op-ed urging community leaders to implement CEP.
Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has a comprehensive site with background info, implementation guides, and sample presentations, op-eds, and letters you can give to your school board, superintendent, and other community leaders.
Additional state-by-state info about Community Eligibility and other programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) can be found here.
Observe National and International Food Days
In October we have two opportunities to learn more about food, hunger, sustainability and agriculture. First, dedicate your dinner as a World Food Day meal on October 16. Join us in broadening the conversation about where our food comes from, and how we can make the food system more just and sustainable. Next, observe National Food Day on October 24. Join with advocates around the country to inspire Americans to improve out diets and fix our food system! More info:
Churches Week of Action on Food
October 12-19 is The Churches Week of Action on Food, spanning the two Sundays on either side of World Food Day. The Churches Week of Action on Food is an opportunity for Christians all over the world to act and speak out together on food justice issues. It is a time to raise awareness about food production and distribution systems, examine our own food consumption, and call for policy changes that will ensure the right to food for everyone. Our faith calls us to feed the hungry and care for Creation – this we can do as individuals, as churches, and as global citizens.
We are all tied to a global food system. In a world facing the challenges of a growing population, skewed resource distribution and an erratic climate, one of the best ways to combat global food insecurity is to invest in small producers – especially women farmers – and remove the barriers that limit their productivity and ability to market their produce.
Creating this awareness is what a World Food Day dinner is all about. Use the resources from our partners at OxFam to host a fun, educational and engaging conversation about food justice.
It's time to eat real! Join this nationwide campaign for delicious, healthy, and affordable food produced in a sustainable way. Thousands of events will be taking place around the country, designed to inspire Americans to eat healthy foods and repair our broken food system. Get more information about Food Day.
This message is especially relevant for UCC congregations in light of the General Synod 28 Resolution for Mindful and Faithful Eating. In it, General Synod notes that "Our dietary choices can have profound implications for the environment, human well-being, and animal welfare." It goes on to call on all Christians to "explore and discuss how food choices can accord with Christian values and beliefs."
The UCC Collegium of Officers invites and encourages all conferences, associations and congregations to participate and engage in dialogue and discussion using the Just Eating Curriculum.
This wonderful curriculum calls us to integrate the commitments and practices of our faith into the way we eat. We think it will be a great enhancement to your work around food justice and sustainability issues. Learn more.
Take the conversation further - Download the 'Just Eating?' curriculum!
The UCC Poverty Page is a site with resources and educational materials linking issues of poverty, economic justice, and hunger.
Visit the ecumenical Faithful Budget campaign site for information on our nation’s budgetary priorities to learn more about protecting funding for foreign aid and domestic food programs.
Church World Service provides resources, advocacy and partners with churches in development projects and emergency assistance. CWS Crop Walks are opportunities for local communities to raise awareness and money for hunger programs.