The Food System in a Kairos Moment
The following is a statement from the Food Justice Affinity Group of the UCC’s Council for Climate Justice.
The U.C.C. Council for Climate Justice’s A Kairos Call to Action: 10-Years of Church Mobilization on Climate and Inequality declares that we are living in a Kairos, God-charged moment of crisis and opportunity. The Food Justice Affinity Group is specifically charged with examining in this moment the food sector, which includes associated manufacturing, production, processing, transportation, marketing and consumption; all of which accounts for 30 percent of global energy consumption and 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Council’s Kairos moment is triply acute today living in the midst of a global pandemic, which has brought untold suffering to countless people and normal life to a virtual stop. As with the prior disasters of hurricanes Katrina and Maria, the pandemic foreshadows the climate change crises. The pandemic has starkly exposed the social and racial inequalities that exist in the country accounting for differential rates of infection, sickness and death.
In addition, we are living in an acute historic moment of widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism, which for generations has worked against the dignity, freedom and opportunities of people of color. Modern-day prophets have proclaimed racism as the country’s original sin and stress the urgency to see with eyes wide open how racism extends throughout our society into our everyday lives, work and institutions. They call for reconciliation and the necessity to right past wrongs and finally bring healing to the nation.
The Food Justice Affinity Group sees the present Kairos moment as truly an opportunity to change our behaviors and the system around food production and distribution. The pandemic has starkly exposed the vulnerability and unsustainability of our present-day food system, dependent on industrial-scale agriculture and supply chains that span the entire continent. The pandemic has also exposed the structural inequalities and inherent racism in the food system, including the precariousness of food workers’ livelihoods of low wages and savings, poor housing, and little or no healthcare provisions. When migrant farm workers and truck drivers are too sick to work, it affects the whole system. Food justice is racial and economic justice.
The good news is that in this period of lockdown we have learned that we can change our behaviors and the widespread Black Lives Matter movement across the country and world suggests that there is a critical momentum for change. The challenging question then becomes, “How exactly are we to change the system?”
It is all too clear that climate and food justice entails building a more resilient system that protects the most vulnerable members of our society and the essential workers on the frontlines of food production and distribution. A more resilient food system therefore has to address issues around longstanding economic, social and racial justice; and labor and immigrant rights. The Food Justice Affinity Group supports the Kairos Call to Action document and encourages congregations to embrace more local and regional based food systems, including initiatives to reduce food waste, sequester carbon through composting, establish permaculture gardening, and form partnerships with community supported agriculture (CSA). We also call on congregations to educate about healthy eating habits, promote urban gardening and the marketing of fresh produce in urban food deserts. We encourage congregations to lead in these initiatives in their communities. For more information about the of Food Justice Affinity Group contact Ian Skoggard via email.