Day: September 18, 2008

Beyond the church food closet

 Most churches participate in some kind of food closet, which is primarily a way to supply emergency food to those who need it.  But, what if everyone needed food?  What if the global food supply system collapses or goes into deep distress?  How do churches help then?

Chatham House, a UK-based thinktank, researches a wide-ranging variety of global issues.  One of the critical issues facing the world community is the food supply.  We are already seeing food delivery disruptions both in the US and in the developing world.  Rising energy costs have added to the cost of food here in the US, and a Chatham House report sees four possible global food supply scenarios:

  1. Just a Blip: what if the present high price of food proves to be a brief spike with a return to cheap food at some point soon?
  2. Food Inflation: what if food prices remain high for a decade or more?
  3. Into a New Era: what if today’s food system has reached its limits and must change?
  4. Food in Crisis: what if a major world food crisis develops?
What does this have to do with small churches, you ask.  First, food is pretty important and rising prices and declining availability will impact your members and your community.  Second, food supply issues are complex and involve the convergence of energy, environment, and economics.  Finally, churches can prepare for the worst-case of a global food supply disruption or the best-case temporary spike in prices by…
  1. Creating awareness of this and other global issues.
  2. Experimenting with local solutions to global problems, like growing a community garden.  I have enlisted the local 4-H coordinator to help with a community garden for Chatham in 2009.
  3. Learning about alternative approaches, such as the slow food, locavore, and other food-related movements.
  4. Exploring resources related to issues of food, hospitality, and care for those in need.  Bill McKibben’s book, Deep Economy, is an excellent resource for looking at food from a local economic standpoint.  
Challenges of the 21st century will demand that churches be prepared to deal with global problems on a local scale.  To do that, you’ll need more than a food closet.