With an election set for tomorrow and the Blue Jays in the playoffs, World Food Day isn’t getting much press! And yet, is there anything more basic than food? Perhaps water, but that’s about it.
Did you know that food insecurity rates in Nova Scotia and Halifax are the worst in Canada? In a report, published a couple of weeks ago in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, defines food insecurity as “inadequate access to food due to financial constraints.” It shows Nova Scotia with the highest rate of food-insecure households at 17.3 per cent in 2011 and 2012, while Ontario has the lowest at 11.8 per cent. Also, according to the 2011-2012 numbers in the Friday study, Halifax has the highest rate among cities with 19.9 per cent, compared to Sherbrooke, Que., with the lowest at 8.6 per cent. The report compared food insecurity between 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 and said in Halifax, those levels have risen “significantly” over the years studied.
“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising, but it is concerning,” said Mount St Vincent University professor and Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Policy Change, Patty Williams. Williams pointed out that the Halifax figures mean one in five people face food insecurity. “If you’re worrying about how you’re going to have enough money to feed your children or how your money is going to last through the month to feed your children or yourself, then you can imagine what impact that has in your household and your ability to parent,” she said. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/food-insecurity-unemployment-1.3262622
We see this right here at the Food Bank… Where our shelves are pretty bare; we are getting less from Feed Nova Scotia. As food insecurity grows, it ripples down… those who might have contributed to Food Banks are also finding it challenging, so they contribute less often or stop altogether.While we are all on fixed incomes, when that income leaves little wiggle room to deal with rising costs or emergencies, the ability to share goes out the window.
The scripture readings are ones that many of are familiar with. The first one is the account in Exodus of manna being provided in the desert. The people are angry with Moses… they are facing hunger and long to go back to the slavery of Egypt, where at least they were fed. Moses takes the problem to God… who tells him that meat and bread will be provided to them… Here is one of the important verses in this passage: Moses tells the gathered community, “16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.”
“As much of it as each of you needs.”
Needs, not wants. Needs for the day, not to store. Needs.
The gospel reading this morning is a very familiar one… the feeding of the five thousand… I think it is the only account of Jesus’ ministry that is found in all four gospels, although each account is slightly different. But the common theme of each one is that when we share, there is enough for all. In Matthew’s gospel, it is the disciples who bring Jesus the bread and fish. In John’s gospel, it is a young boy who has some food… five loaves and two fish… and Jesus’ blesses it and begins to distribute it… and there is enough for all… enough and more! The leftovers fill twelve baskets…
This can be understood as a miracle story… or it can be understood as a sharing story… It doesn’t really matter how it happened… it happened… When we share… even if it is only a little… there is enough and more… We may feel as what we have isn’t much to offer… as if our five loaves and fishes can’t make a difference… Or our ‘one can’ won’t make a difference. (During children’s time we talked about building a wall of soup, which is what our food bank needs most right now).
But, as with all things, working together, small things add up and make a difference. They make a difference to those who show up here on Wednesday mornings for Food Bank. Even Jesus didn’t feed ALL the hungry people in his time… you will notice that the reading speaks of feeding five thousand… not the entire country… But he gave an example of what can happen, when we all share what we have. He simply blessed and gave thanks for what they brought to him. And it was enough and more.
What can we do in our time and place? There are a number of things that we can do. Some of them quite easy, which provide relief for hunger immediately. Some harder and more long term. We can give food, money and time to food banks in our local communities. For those of us with internet access, we can click on the hunger site (www.thehungersite.com) every day. Each time you click, an advertiser provides a contribution to end world hunger. We can donate to organizations such as The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which collects and distributes abundant harvests, agricultural equipment, and cash to other countries which are experiencing drought and famine. The really neat thing about this organization is that the Canadian government matches donations on a 4 to 1 basis, up to a maximum of 16 million per year. This means that whatever your donation, our government will send 4 times as much. Those are stop gap measures, that don’t really address the root causes, but while we go about the slow process of changing governmental policies, it is important to feed hungry people.
I believe that part of our Christian response to challenge governmental policies and practices that lead to hunger, both in our own country and around the world. We can become politically aware and active. I didn’t realize until this past week that there is an organization called Eat, Think, Vote. This is what they have to say about food security:
Food Secure Canada and its partners across the country are engaging Canadians about food during this federal election. Canada requires a food policy cutting across health, environment, education and the economy to address the interrelated issues of hunger, unsustainable food production, climate change, and unhealthy diets.
Collectively, we are calling for the creation of a national food policy where no one goes hungry and all Canadians have access to healthy, just, and sustainable food. Priority action areas include:
Ensuring adequate income supports, so no one goes hungry.
Solutions to the food crisis in the North and fostering food sovereignty for Indigenous communities experiencing this unprecedented situation.
Incentives and better supports for new farmers to ensure the future of sustainable food in Canada, addressing issues such as an aging farming population, increasing farm debts, and financial barriers faced by new farmers.
A national universal healthy school food program as a foundation for health, wellness and learning. https://adventuresinlocalfood.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/does-food-matter-to-you-join-the-eat-think-vote-movement/
There is enough and more.
Ralph Milton, a United Church layperson writes this… The miracle of the loaves and fishes is still possible. What if all the people in North America who have enough – and that is most of us – shared just a little more. Say, a dollar a week? We wouldn’t even notice. What if all of us who have enough did that, there’d be enough to feed all those in North America who don’t have enough. What if we decided to change our way of maintaining our international security? What if we stopped being paranoid and started being generous? What if, instead of spending money on armaments, we spent it on justice – on food and medicine and education and development for the two-thirds world? Our countries would be so admired, so respected for our generosity; no one would dare attack us. And who knows, if we did it, other countries might too. And we’d discover there really is enough to go around and we don’t need to protect our backsides or our front sides or any other sides. It’s totally impractical of course. Who would think of such a crazy idea? A small child might. A small boy thought of it on the shore of the Galilee two-thousand years ago. A small boy didn’t think, “What will I eat?” and instead thought, “I have something to share!” Jesus got the message. Do we? (adapted from Rumors – 2003
Five loaves, two fish… enough and more…
Thanks be to God, amen.
Exodus 16: 2-15
Matthew 14: 13-21
October 18, 2015
St. Paul’s Spryfield
Catherine MacDonald 2015