Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 4: Sharing the Food

One of the most basic elements needed for life is food, and the meal has long been a cornerstone of family and community. Celebrations have long featured feasts as a central component and one of the ways that many cultures demonstrate sacrifice is by fasting, both of which are different ways of making you very aware of food. When you're conscious of the food you're eating, you really can't help but appreciate the abundance that we have around us in this world.

Today, this central role of food has been usurped by the mindless eating at the heart of American behavior, epitomized by the ease of the fast food industry and pre-made entrees which can be heated up in minutes in the microwave, many of which are marketed with a glossy veneer of misleading nutritional benefit claims.

Giving has traditionally started with food, because it was one of the few things of valuable that people had to give and which someone else would definitely need. In fact, there's no shortage of charities that focus on food, both locally and around the world. Consider a few examples:

  • Aspire Indiana Farm - a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program run by Aspire Indiana Behavioral Health System (a merger of BehaviorCorp and The Center for Mental Health). The Farm provides work and training for citizens with disabilities, growing produce for the local community. You buy into the program up front, helping offset their costs, and then go in weekly to claim the produce that's part of your share of the weekly harvest.
  • Second Helpings - An Indianapolis-based organization, which reclaims food excess food from restaurants, grocery stores, and other sources, which would need to be thrown out otherwise. They provide training to under-employed citizens, so that they can get jobs in the food services industry. Together with volunteers, the food is prepared into nutritious meals which are provided to other service organizations throughout Indianapolis.
  • Hungry for Change - The organization related to the recent film Food, Inc. (Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary) that seeks to inform people about the various issues that are resulting from the industrial food process, including foodborne illnesses.

Last night, we were reminded of the significant role food plays in community when a couple of our friends, motivated by the project, decided to shop at a local discount grocery and buy food in bulk, getting a lot of extra food for about the same price they would normally pay for their weekly food. They ended up with a lot of extra food, and decided to share some with us, and with some other friends who they know had some need. There was enough food there to probably supply meals for several days, with nothing else added (although we'd probably get full of rice and potatoes).

So our giving today has involved sharing this food that was shared with us, by inviting some other friends over for dinner. We both have a fair amount of work (writing for me, school work for  Amber) that we need to get done, so this is a bit of a sacrifice in a sense ... but it's also important, we both feel, to make time for our friends. There's a lot to do in life, but slowing down every once in a while to make time for others is always useful.

As Gandhi said: There's more to life than increasing its speed.

This, sadly, is something I tend to forget. It is one of the lessons that I have to continually remind myself ... and taking the night off to have dinner with friends is a good way to do that.