Food and drink
This page offers thoughts on how to eat and drink sustainably.
The Unseen Guest
Jesus said ‘Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). He also turned water into wine. And He celebrated the sharing of a meal with his disciples in the Last Supper; we still commemorate this in the Eucharist of the Bread and Wine.
Here are just a few of the many dilemmas concerning what we eat:
- Methane emissions from cattle, nitrate fertilizers, water use in agriculture, transport and refrigeration all contribute to climate change;
- Feeding animals to eat them needs more vegetables and takes more land than growing the greens to eat ourselves – adding to food shortages;
- Too much of our food is wasted – whether due to passing its sell-by date, or from being left in the bottom of the fridge;
- Non-Fairtrade food is implicated in injustice – do we consider the source of our chocolate Easter eggs? Have you tried Divine Chocolate? – available e.g. from Traidcraft;
- Intensive farming practices are cruel to animals; though UK farm animals enjoy generally better welfare standards.
Many environmentalists think that the growth in meat-eating worldwide, especially red meat, lies at the heart of unsustainability.
Human beings, the livestock to feed us, and the crops to feed the livestock, are driving out the competition, squeezing wild animals and ecosystems into smaller and smaller remnants of the earth’s surface.
This is also a major contributor to deforestation. All of these things add to the causes of climate change. To say nothing of our gross over-fishing of the oceans.
Rules of thumb
So what can we still eat? These are difficult judgments for individual minds and consciences.
Mnemonics we can use include the LOAF acronym (Local, Organic, Animal-friendly, Fairtrade) of Christian Ecology, and the 70/50/30 principle (70% fresh, 50% local, 30% organic).
The Diocese of London is a Fairtrade diocese. Yes we should minimise food miles, but many crops aren’t grown in the UK. If we want to partake of tea and coffee for example, we have to import – so let’s buy Fairtrade.
Organic food and farming
Organic food, employing materials and practices free of synthetic or inorganic chemicals, is championed by the Soil Association.
Permaculture and Biodynamics
Permaculture goes further, ‘working with nature to make a better world for all’. See the Permaculture Association.
Biodynamics is described as ‘an inspirational international movement that promotes a uniquely holistic approach to organic agriculture and gardening, and food and health’. See the Biodynamic Association.
For ‘the world’s largest database of food plants’, see Food Plants International – a Christian not-for-profit organisation that aims to provide information about edible plants with the objective of helping the hungry make use of natural resources available in the wild.
Food growing in the Diocese
The Diocese encourages appropriate use of land for food growing.
Food growing projects in the Diocese include Southall Community Garden in the Willesden Episcopal Area, where native vegetables and a fruit tree are grown organically, with native flowers to attract wildlife – there is also a small artificial pond. To learn more, contact A Rocha.
There are also community gardens at St Peter Bethnal Green and St Michael and All Angels Ladbroke Grove.
For what to do and how, contact the Head of Environment and Sustainability.
And let’s make sure we pick our own fruit trees (with a safe ladder and a head for heights). Often they produce small fruit – which would be rejected by supermarkets, either for this reason or just because they don’t look as perfect as plastic fruit! Let’s not waste our own.
Food sustainability is one of the aims of the Transition Towns movement, supported by many Christians and church members. St Mary Ealing is an example of a parish church with links to the local Ealing Transition Town. Contact the Revd Steve Paynter for details.
Genetically modified (GM) food
This is a controversial area which every Christian should think about very carefully. In the end we all have to make up our own minds about GM – but there is plenty of reason to be wary.
See G M Food.
To read more