"If those of us with magnified earning power would learn to be satisfied with enough, we would not only be able to share more...we would be able to live less frantic, stressful lives."
Ericlee and I spent our Saturday with a group of 28 college students who are participating in Fresno Urban Internship (F.U.I.). We were invited to speak as part of a seminar called about "Food & Justice." We were truly humbled to be invited to share at this event. Many of you know we have been on a healthy food journey over the last several years and we have been writing about it on our other blog, Health-full. On Saturday, we were dialoguing about several topics, including how difficult it is for the poor to eat healthy and sometimes even to eat at all because of the way the richest countries use and overuse the world's resources.
I think about California's farmworkers and the poor conditions they are forced to live and work in. As or new friends Rachel and Anthony from Sacramento pointed out, "Food is cheaper here in the U.S. than anywhere in the world. And the ugly truth is that farm workers living in poverty subsidize our cheap food prices. The wages are LOW, the work is hard, and long hours are the norm. Farm workers do not normally receive benefits such as health insurance, pension plans and paid vacation."
Part of what drives this need is Americans hunger for fast food and convenient, processed foods. Let's not even get started on how these things affect our bodies and our health. We make the food cheaply. We sell it cheaply. We eat it often and pay the consequences in doctor bills or worse.
What would happen if we all took more seriously eating food produced locally? How would our world change if we planted a garden? What if we ate produce in season instead of requiring it be shipped from all over the world, which drives down prices in countries that desperately need food the most and taxes our environment in shipping? What would happen if we in America settle for enough instead of indulged in too much? How many more hungry people could we feed in the world?
Ericlee and I can't help thinking about this issue of "Food and Justice" in terms of Haiti where we will be going to serve soon. One of the difficult issues in Haiti, which is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is that so much aid pours into the country but not much of it is sustainable. In fact, much of what Haiti has been given creates a dependency to other countries or large companies. After the recent earthquake in Haiti, one large American company donated seeds to Haiti. Seems like a great act of benevolence until people realized these seeds were hybrid corn seeds heavily treated with pesticides. If Haitians used these seeds, they would be dependent on a new kind of farming and inserting a whole new world of problems into their gardens.
We join our Haitian leadership in trying to create more projects and opportunities to give Haitian young people a skill or trade, rather than simply giving them money or handouts. If they can learn better farming practices or how to become an electrician, plumber or carpenter; If they can gain skills to use and fix computers; If they can learn practical ways to start a small business, they can contribute more to the community and live beyond a handout.
Question to ponder: "Has not God chosen the poor in the world...to be heirs of the Kingdom?" from James 2:1-7.