I have suggested almost at the beginning of blogging marathon that Lent can be time to stop and ask some hard questions about our way of life. There is so much we accept so unthinkingly about our modern consumerist lifestyle, and I used the example on day 3 about our failure to question where our wealth comes from. Another example would be our failure to understand exactly where our food comes from – until some scandal erupts like the use of horsemeat in cheap, beef products or yet another report comes out about food waste. It’s almost as if in our drive for convenient, cheap, high-quality food we become blind to the realities of food production.
Take, for example, the fruit and vegetable section in your local supermarket. It all looks so wholesome and so fresh. Yet actually it is also scarily unnatural. You don’t particularly have to have green fingers to know that not every vegetable turns out a uniform size and shape and colour. So what is put on sale can only be a part of the total crop. That’s why every year farmers produce so much that is unsold, thrown away or allowed to rot where it grows. Or take the humble egg. If you keep chickens, you know that eggs come in all kinds of sizes and colours and shapes. You won’t learn that, however, if you rely on your supermarket for your egg supplies.
Of course it’s easy to point to the finger at big supermarkets, yet as the old Hebrew proverb puts it, when you point the finger at someone, you have three pointing back at you. So how about this for a quote?
The amount of food discarded by consumers in industrialised nations is equivalent to nearly the entire level of net food production of sub-Saharan Africa
Just take a moment to read that. And then read that again. It’s interesting that in the Bible we do not find a society divided into producers, retailers and consumers. Rather we find a view of the world where people are interdependent on each other, and there is a care for the poor, the vulnerable and the stranger. How can that vision relate to the current debates on food production? That’s a hard question to answer – but a necessary one, if we really have a passion and a concern for God’s world.
Since writing these rather sketchy thoughts, I came across this fascinating article on the Gospel Coalition written by a Christian pastry chef – there’s some imaginative wrestling here with precisely the same question. Well worth reading and reflecting on!