We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Season of Creation – Food

James 5:7-8 -“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. ”

Food and the environment covers how we deal with our populations in relationship to food, particularly those who are food insecure and how we deal with the land and seas that produce these food.

1. Food and our populations

A sermon by Evan Garner highlighted why Church food ministries are so important in our time

“Because feeding them is our job. As followers of Jesus, it is our calling to feed these people, indeed to feed all hungry people. The kind of people who left their homes to walk out into the wilderness and hike up a mountain to see Jesus are the kind of people who were desperate to be fed. Some of them may not have needed physical nourishment, but most of them did. For most of them, their spiritual crisis was born out of an economic crisis. We know that because usually the kind of people who had enough on their own weren’t very interested in Jesus. The rich and the powerful ignored him or laughed at him or, sometimes, plotted against him. “

“It is our job as the leaders of the church, as the stewards of the resources entrusted to us by God and by our parish, to count costs and estimate resources. But it is never our job as the people of God to allow an attitude of scarcity to overcome a theology of abundance. “

A recent 3 day series in early August, 2018 the Free Lance-Star “A Hunger to Help” highlighted food issues in 2018:

“About 31,000 residents of Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford consistently lack enough food to maintain a healthy, active life. They’re considered food insecure by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“That means there are more local people who have trouble putting food on the table than the entire population of Fredericksburg. They are teachers and service workers, first responders and retail employees—and many of them work several jobs, which often means they make too much for government assistance.

A separate national study published in the last week in August, 2018 by the Urban Institute of 7,600 adults reported “Despite a strong economy, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one of their basic needs last year, including paying for food, health care, housing or utilities…Food insecurity was the most common challenge: More than 23 percent of households struggled to feed their family at some point during the year.”

ArticleLocal Food Insecurity figures from 2016 released earlier in 2018 show some improvement.

From “A Hunger to Help”

“More than 160 community partners—schools, churches, nonprofits and regional agencies—get items from the Food Bank to operate 260 programs in the city, four surrounding counties and Locust Grove in Orange County.

“Programs range from weekday summer lunches for children whose meals end when school closes to cafes at local senior centers three days a week. There are programs that give boxes of food staples to the disabled and offer help with pet food.

“In the Fredericksburg region, 54 churches operate pantries, either weekly or a few times a month, through their partnership with the Food Bank. Another 36 schools set up food pantries in closets and cubbyholes. And an additional seven agencies, such as SERVE in Stafford, SECA in Spotsylvania or the Barbara Carroll Community Outreach in the city, have regular food giveaways.

“In fiscal 2018, the Food Bank distributed more than 4 million pounds of food to about 34,000 residents through its partner agencies.

“The USDA classifies the entire city of Fredericksburg as a food desert because of the number of residents who can’t afford what’s sold in grocery stores or don’t have transportation to get there.”

“The disparity highlights the struggles faced by people recently identified as the ALICE population: those who are asset limited, income constrained and employed. More than 39 percent of Virginia households don’t have enough money to cover basic living expenses, according to the ALICE report from the Rappahannock United Way.

“After the economy tanked in 2007, the cost of living, including housing and taxes, child care and food, increased dramatically. Health care expenses alone climbed 81 percent between 2007 and 2015, the report stated, and wages couldn’t keep pace.
Those once considered middle class joined the ranks of the working poor, and charitable groups from Culpeper to Colonial Beach started handing out bags of groceries to help fill the void. “

From US News and World Report, May 4, 2018

The need for food is economic. “The U.S. economy has delivered steady if only modest gains for most Americans since the Great Recession ended in 2009. It’s been a frustration for many.

“But for much of the expansion, many people have felt left behind. Some have found only part-time work. Pay growth, on average, has been meager. The stock market boom and low interest rates that defined the recovery have favored the wealthy.

“The economy’s modest growth, though, has helped prevent it from overheating and skidding into another recession, as often happened during more robust expansions. And some economists say the ever-lower unemployment rate suggests that a wider swath of Americans soon stand to benefit from stronger pay growth.”

There are also issues of waste. Up to 40 percent of the United States’ food supply goes to the landfill, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, resulting in a loss of $161 billion worth of product in 2010. This translates to about $1,500 per year worth of groceries that the average U.S. family simply throws away, not to mention what gets trashed on farms, at supermarkets and in other areas. The food deteriorates to methane gas, a harmful substance as shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/EwNpnUUSk4M

There is a misunderstanding for “Sell by” dates on non-perishable items. It is not the date food will go bad. According to the Food and Drug Administration, most canned vegetables and soup are good for at least two years beyond the sell-by date; tomatoes and citrus fruits are good for about a year longer than the package date

From Road to Recovery

20 percent of consumer food waste results from a misunderstanding of “best by” and “sell by” dates on packaging, which are actually somewhat arbitrary. “They’re not safety labels; these are just the manufacturer’s best guess about quality,” he explained.

Village Harvest

Over the first 36 months through Nov., 2017 we served just under 4,000 people from Caroline, Essex, King George and Westmoreland counties.

The list of individuals served has grown from 46 people (Nov, 2014) to 191 in Nov., 2017, which was a new record. It is like our second congregation! 34,000 pounds of food have been distributed at that time. The food is a mixture of fresh produce from the Northern Neck Food Bank and donations from the church.

The parish contributed other non-perishable products, such as chicken broth, beans, rice, spaghetti and sauce, paper product, tuna, peanut butter, etc. Approximately 20 people per month plan, purchase and serve food from a congregation of 60.

Later on Giving Tuesday Nov. 28 we helped support this key outreach ministry by raising $1,010 which should provide food for 1,000.

As of August, 2018 our numbers have been less than in 2017. However, we are not calling clients as in previous years which may affect the numbers. After reaching a high number served of 153 in April and dropping in May to 112, we have been steadily increasing the numbers served over the last quarter. June fed 100, July 119 and this month in August rose to 140. We have served 860 people this year which is below 2017 (1,039) but above 2016 (763).

Some churches have used excess land and a commercial kitchen to cater to the food cycle. One such church is Trinity, Charlottesville. From Garden, to kitchen and teaching to food distribution they have made food a major focus.

“The food ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, starts in the church’s garden. Volunteers till the soil. They weed and water the raised beds. They harvest the produce when it’s ready, their work sessions filled with fellowship and concluding in prayer.

The ministry, called Bread & Roses, then brings that fresh produce into the church’s commercially certified kitchen, where it becomes a learning tool in cooking classes that teach lessons in nutrition and healthy cooking techniques.”

The Fredericksburg articles on food highlighted a recent trend – to take food ministry into the community at the same time keeping their church food ministries. In Charlottesville, Trinity has partnered with International Rescue Committee to hold cooking demonstrations at a city farmer’s market. St. George’s has its “Table in the World” program to take food distribution to various subdivisions of need like Hazel Hill.

Food Waste

The local food banks and other distributors have worked out agreements with restaurants to help eliminate waste by taking foods they cannot sell due to sell by dates and redistributing the foods. Globally, the issue of waste is a large one.

World Wildlife Federation has covered the topic in its fall magazine.

“Today, 7.3 billion people consume 1.6 times what the earth’s natural resources can supply. By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9 billion and the demand for food will double.

“So how do we produce more food for more people without expanding the land and water already in use? We can’t double the amount of food. Fortunately we don’t have to—we have to double the amount of food available instead. In short, we must freeze the footprint of food.

“In the near-term, food production is sufficient to provide for all, but it doesn’t reach everyone who needs it. In fact, one-third of the world’s food—1.3 billion tons—is lost or wasted at a cost of $750 billion annually. When we throw away food, we waste the wealth of resources and labor that was used to get it to our plates. In effect, lost and wasted food is behind more than a quarter of all deforestation and nearly a quarter of global water consumption. It generates as much as 10% of all greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Another negative aspect of food waste is its connection to species loss. Consider this: Food production is the primary threat to biodiversity worldwide, expected to drive an astonishing 70% of projected terrestrial biodiversity loss by 2050. That loss is happening in the Amazon, where rain forests are still being cleared to create new pasture for cattle grazing, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, where agriculture is expanding rapidly. But it’s also happening close to home.

“These wasted calories are enough to feed three billion people—10 times the population of the United States, more than twice that of China, and more than three times the total number of malnourished globally. Wasted food may represent as much as 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is a main contributor to deforestation and the depletion of global water sources.

“By improving efficiency and productivity while reducing waste and shifting consumption patterns, we can produce enough food for everyone by 2050 on roughly the same amount of land we use now. Feeding all sustainably and protecting our natural resources.”

2. Food and the Environment

All of us whether we are food secure or not have to be concerned with how our food choices are affecting the environment, God’s creation.

You could make the point that diets were healthier in Biblical times and there was better care of the environment.

Originally God granted the use of the vegetable world for food to man ( Genesis 1:29 ). Many foods we encourage people to eat were a regular part of Biblical diets. These include olives and olive oil, pomegranates, grapes, goat milk, raw honey, lamb, and bitter herbs. Fruit was another source of subsistence: figs stood first in point of importance; they were generally dried and pressed into cakes. Grapes were generally eaten in a dried state as raisins. Of vegetables most frequently mentioned were lentils, beans, leeks, onions and garlic ( Numbers 11:5 ) Honey is extensively used, as is also olive oil.

Meat consumption was limited in contrast to today. In the law of Moses there are special regulations as to the animals to be used for food ( Leviticus 11 ; Deuteronomy 14:3-21 ). “You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud”. Certain animals were mentioned that could not be eart- rabbit, pig, camel Most birds were seen as unclean. Most fish could be eaten but must have “fins and scales. ” The Jews were also forbidden to use as food anything that had been consecrated to idols ( Exodus 34:15 ), or animals that had died of disease or had been torn by wild beasts ( Exodus 22:31 ; Leviticus 22:8 ) or animals that moved along the ground ( Leviticus 11 ) . The animals killed for meat were –calves, lambs, oxen – not above three years of age, harts, roebucks and fallow deer; birds of various kinds;

  1. The food we eat affects our health- in particular corn and soy.

Today, we are getting less nutrition for the same amount of food due in part to depletion of nutrients in the soil due to decision on what to grow, in particular corn and soy Two of the cheapest sources of calories are corn and soy, which the federal government has long subsidized and which make up a large percentage of our caloric intake today (often in the form of high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil). Corn is also a large part of the diet of the animals we eat.

Corn and soy are prized because they can be efficiently grown on vast farms. But growing just one crop consistently (a monoculture) depletes the soil and forces farmers to use greater amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.

According to Brian Halwell, a researcher for WorldWatch, vitamin C has declined by 20 percent, iron by 15 percent, riboflavin by 38 percent, and calcium by 16 percent. So we are now getting less nutrition per calorie in our foods. In essence, we have to eat more food to get the same vitamin and mineral content.

This is probably due to a combination of factors, including the depletion of nutrients in the soil through monoculture and the use of fertilizers, which simplify the biochemistry of the soil.

This simplification of the soil in turn makes plants more vulnerable to pests, so farmers need to use more pesticides, which introduces those chemicals (environmental toxins) in our bodies and in our air and water supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Report on Environmental Pollution and Disease indicates that the following common diseases and conditions may be strongly linked to environmental exposure: asthma, autism, breast and other cancers, lung disease, Parkinson’s disease, and conditions associated with reproductive health.

  1. Corn and soy affect the quality of US Streams

A US National Academy of Science report designates nitrogen and phosphorous pollution as the main threat to US Coastal Waters. Moreover, according to a recent EPA report 55% of all US streams are now unsuitable for aquatic life primarily due to excess nutrients. The basic problem is that fertilizer runoff from corn production used primarily to feed livestock and leaching from large manure ponds found

Adding nutrients stimulates excess growth of phytoplankton (algae) that subsequently then die and sink to become available for bacteria to decompose in bottoms waters. As bacteria decompose the dead phytoplankton they also consume oxygen. Consequently, increasing nutrient additions indirectly leads to increases oxygen consumption by the bacteria until most or even all of the oxygen is removed from the water

  1. Our food choices affect levels of greenhouse gases

The food we eat is responsible for almost a third of our global carbon footprint. Red meat is the most emissions-intensive food we consume.

The “carbon footprint” of hamburger, for example, includes all of the fossil fuels that that went into producing the fertilizer and pumping the irrigation water to grow the corn that fed the cow, and may also include emissions that result from converting forest land to grazing land. Meat from ruminant animals (cows, goats, and sheep) has a particularly large carbon footprint because of the methane (a potent global warming gas) released from the animals’ digestion and manure.

Producing livestock for human consumption contributes 14.5% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Greenhouse emissions causes a warming of the planet. These temperatures  casen exceed the heat tolerance of major crops, so that yields of these crops will decline. One way to reduce the food security problem is to shift global diets toward one that is more plant-based

Mark Bittman in Food Matters estimate  “In all, the average American meat eater is responsible for one and a half tons more CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas—enough to fill a large house—than someone who eats no meat

However, it is possible to substitute red meat with other meats, or plant-based protein sources, such as lentils and nuts, that have a lower impact.

Another issue with livestock is that overgrazing by livestock has caused a loss of top soil.

  1. Overall we are eating less diverse. Modern farming methods mean 75% of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species.

This lack of diversity in our food supply makes it much more vulnerable to climate change, pests and diseases

The world of junk food, overrefined carbohydrates, and highly processed oils make up an astonishingly large part of our diet. According to  Mark Bittman in Food Matters. Meanwhile, beef, pork, dairy, chicken, and fish account for 23 percent of our total caloric consumption, while vegetables and fruit—including juice, which is often sugar-laden—barely hit 10 percent

RankFood% of Total Energy
1Sweets, desserts12.3
2Beef, pork10.1
3Bread, rolls, crackers8.7
4Mixed dishes8.2
6Soft drinks7.1
8Chicken, fish5.7
9Alcoholic beverages4.4
10Fruit, juice3.9

To give you an idea of how much more energy goes into junk food than comes out, consider that a 12-ounce can of diet soda—containing just 1 calorie—requires 2,200 calories to produce, about 70 percent of which is in production of the aluminum can. Almost as impressive is that it takes more than 1,600 calories to produce a 16-ounce glass jar, and more than 2,100 to produce a half-gallon plastic milk container. As for your bottled water? A 1-quart polyethylene bottle requires more than 2,400 calories to produce

Every time you drink a glass of tap water instead of bottled water, you save the calorie equivalent of a day’s food: the 2,400 calories it takes to produce that plastic bottle.

To do

  1. Eat locally and organically

Buying locally can help reduce the pollution and energy use associated from transporting, storing and refrigerating this food—that’s especially true for food that is imported by airplane

Choose locally caught, sustainably managed fish or herbivorous farmed stocks like tilapia, catfish, and carp

Organic farmers don’t use chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and farm using high quality animal welfare practices.

  1. Eat a more balance diet and to break down toxins in our body

a Drink extra water.

b Consume a balanced diet of whole foods, colorful fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, squash, blueberries, citrus, beets, dandelion greens, artichokes, pomegranate, and carrots. These foods are filled with phytonutrients and have been shown to boost detoxification.

c Eat celery-an “unassuming” but powerful detoxifying food that provides phytonutrients that benefit the liver’s ability to detoxify.  Include the following foods containing antioxidants (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E,   and selenium): beets, broccoli, asparagus, swiss chard, kale, peaches, red peppers, papayas, parsley, carrots, apricots, alfalfa, avocados, cantaloupe, and green leafy vegetables. Antioxidants are necessary for neutralizing free radicals.

Eating this way save energy. From Food Matters. “Look at it this way: When you eat a quarter pound of beef, you’re consuming about 20 percent of your daily calories, but it takes about 1,000 calories—almost half your daily intake—to produce that burger. Remember, beef production requires energy for processing, transportation, marketing, and, most of all, the production of all the grain fed to the cow in the first place. (Producing a salad requires energy too, but nothing like what it takes to make that quarter-pounder.)”

Mark Bittman’s conclusion in Food Matters –“The choice is obvious: To reduce our impact on the environment, we should depend on foods that require little or no processing, packaging, or transportation, and those that efficiently convert the energy required to raise them into nutritional calories to sustain human beings. And as you might have guessed, that means we should be increasing our reliance on whole foods, mostly plants.”

  1. Watch the waste.

The USDA estimates that an astonishing 27 percent of all food (by weight) produced for people in the United States is either thrown away or is used for a lower-value purpose, like animal feed. A recent study estimated that the average household wastes 14 percent of its food purchases—a loss of significant value for most families

In addition to the water, energy, pesticides, and global warming pollution that went into producing, packaging, and transporting this discarded food, nearly all of this waste ends up in landfills where it releases even more heat-trapping gas in the form of methane as it decomposes.

Avoid products with a lot of packaging.

Compost your kitchen scraps with your yard leaves and lawn clippings.

  1. How we grow is also important..

It’s also important to note that the importance of “water use” is not the same everywhere; the water use we measured included rainfall, groundwater extractions, and surface water diversions for agriculture. But in terms of sustainability, using rainwater to grow crops has much less environmental impact than depleting underground aquifers or diverting water from rivers. There are other trade-offs between environment and health as well. For example, sugar and oil have lower greenhouse gas emissions than many meats, but eating these in large amounts is unhealthy

  1. Consider the life cycle of everything you take into your hand. .

Where did it come from? Who made it and under what conditions? What were the costs to the environment and to people to grow or manufacture this item? How far did it travel? What will happen to it when it is broken and needs to be discarded?