US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Faithful to fresh food

Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
heirloom tomatoes

This morning, I read a post on Civil Eats about church soup kitchens and food pantries serving fresh and healthy food rather than things like baloney sandwiches and heavily-processed, heavily-salted canned soups. This is the quote that stood out for me:

“You can’t die of starvation in Seattle, but you can die of malnutrition,” Macmillan explains of his dedication to serving fare brimming with nutrients, fiber and lean protein. He points to the common health problems of the disadvantaged and often homeless clients Jubilee serves—diabetes, hypertension, obesity, vitamin deficiencies—which can lead to premature death.

It reminded me of an experience I had about five years ago.

I used to coordinate service-learning projects for campus ministry, my favorite of which was taking students to a farm to glean.* I had my own experience gleaning apples while in college and am convinced it was the single most valuable lesson I learned in my four years of undergad. OK, maybe that’s a tad hyperbolic, but it was an extremely important experience nonetheless that only became more meaningful when I got to coordinate my own gleaning project years later.

(*Gleaning is a practice found in the Bible, specifically in Ruth. Essentially, when you go gleaning, you are picking up the leftovers on a farm that would otherwise rot and be tilled back into the soil, which is what happens to thousands of pounds of useable fruits and vegetables each year.)

When I went in college, we didn’t bring the produce to the food bank. A truckload was taken by other volunteers. While the reality of food waste hit home as I collected from the ground bushel after bushel of perfectly good apples, I wasn’t exposed to the lack of fresh produce in food pantries and soup kitchens until much later when, as a campus minister, I had the opportunity to deliver fresh corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, and tomatoes.

As a handful of students and I unloaded the boxes, it was soon obvious that, when I’d called earlier to say we’d be dropping off a carload of food, the kitchen coordinator and chef wasn’t expecting fresh produce.

He told me that they never get fresh food. I asked him what he was going to do with it all. He responded giddily that he already had plans for a tomato salad and a tomato sauce. But he was most excited to invite the kids in the neighborhood over for watermelon and cantaloupe that night.

While I admire all efforts for hunger relief, I am especially inspired by those, like St. Andrew's in Seattle, who are finding ways to bring quality, nutritious, dare I say life-giving food to the poor and disenfranchised.