All We Hunger For: Good Food Is Much More Than a Matter of Taste

Article excerpt

My mother was a Depression baby in rural North Carolina. At an early age she knew what it was to be hungry, unsure of when and what her next meal would be. As an adult with her own family, she oversaw cupboards jammed with canned goods, a large chest freezer packed with parcels of meat wrapped in white butcher paper and plastic boxes of last summer's strawberries and sweet corn, and a basement that held dozens of jars of home-canned pickles, green beans, cherries, beets, and jam.

No one within shouting distance of her (and the woman could shout) was going to know anything about hunger. Food was security, in several senses of the word both preparation to meet real physical needs and contingencies and, I am quite sure, a salve for deep emotional and spiritual wounds inflicted by a difficult and sometimes violent upbringing.

As Christians, many different interpretations of the phrase "food security" are appropriate for our attention. The church often splits over interpretation of Bible verses such as "he has filled the hungry with good things" (Luke 1:53). Some factions favor a purely this-world, material understanding; others take those words as only metaphor for a spiritual feast. But, God's ongoing dream for us seems to include both satisfying our hunger and thirst for the living bread and water that heals and nourishes our sin-sick souls and providing the literal bread and water to keep our bodies alive, blessed, and blessing. In either case, the promise isn't to fill us with whatever puffed-air and high-fructose-corn-syrup spiritual or material amalgam is handy, but rather with "good things."

FOOD SYSTEMS researchers Mike Hamm and Anne Bellows define community food security as "a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice. This is the opposite of finding security by stocking up or hoarding. Rather, this security comes through equitable distribution and accessibility of food--enough for everyone, attainable even to those with low or no income.

But you'll note that this definition, like Mary's song quoted in the Luke passage, has more facets than simply supply to meet demand. …