Thank you for joining the Partners in Health and Wholeness Book Club. You can officially sign-up here. Through it, we hope to engage people of faith in discussions over why our health matters. Our current choice of reading is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” by Barbara Kingsolver. We are posting updates through the PHW Facebook page, but our PHW blog page has the discussion posts in full with responses from staff. Just look for the apple on top of the book picture among the blog post pictures and you will find past Book Club entries.
In this chapter, Kingsolver offers a beautiful picture of one way to “have an intuitive sense of what will be in season throughout the year:” she suggests “picturing a season of foods unfolding as if from one single plant.” Each plant has different stages it must go through throughout the year. Think about how a plant awaits spring time in the form of a seed during the winter months. Once springtime emerges, we eat the leaves (think lettuces and kales) or even the seeds in the pod (a snap pea). We tend to forget however, at our supermarkets, what stage of life our food is in. The example of the “vegetannual” begins with the foods in the spring, the smaller leaved plants (our foods with leaves: sprouts, spinach, chard, kale) and as it develops throughout the summer, flower buds appear and then we have fruit (berries, tomatoes, peppers), and finally as autumn draws near, the shells on those fruits begin to harden (apples, pears) and eventually turn into bulb like storage units (garlic, onions) during the winter months.
A plant teaches us the story of life, the birth occurs in the spring and withers to its death in the winter. She is claiming that we can get fruits and vegetables at any time of the year, but with a price: “untallied debts that will be paid by our children in the currency of extinctions, economic unravelings and global climate change,” not to mention the health issues that are becoming epidemics.
Americans are the biggest gas guzzlers and waste producers in the world. One way we consume excess fuel is by shipping produce all over the place before they arrive on our dinner plates. It is estimated that the average meal in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles before reaching the table, and a head of lettuce shipped from California to North Carolina requires 36 times more fossil fuel energy in transport than it provides in food energy. By focusing on local food, we can support local farmers and bring more income into our local communities, as well as cutting down on the energy wasted in shipping, packaging and refrigeration. As an added bonus, local food is a win-win for anyone with taste buds, because local and seasonal foods taste so much better.
1) In Proverbs 21:20 it states “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” In what ways do we take for granted the Earth and its precious resources? How conscientious is your church/community around issues of waste? How might this be better addressed in your community?
2) What foods are in season right now where you live? How can you get plugged into local alternatives to your favorite foods? (Let us suggest the Cooperative Extension, Carolina Grown, The Produce Box, Local Harvest, or the Robyn Van En Center).
–Amelia Brady, PHW Regional Assistant
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.