Mindful Eating as a Spiritual Discipline

Mindful Eating as a Spiritual Discipline

Resources for Congregations and Individuals

Web of Creation

Theological Explanation

God gave to humans “every tree with seed in its fruit” for food.  To the animals and birds God gave “every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:29 - 30)

“We are looking for ways to live more simply and joyfully, ways that grow out of our tradition but take their shape from living faith and the demands of our hungry world. There is not just one way to respond, nor is there a single answer to the world’s food problem.  It may not be within our capacity to effect an answer.

But it is within our capacity to search for a faithful response.”

Doris Janzen Longacre, author of More-With-Less Cookbook

            What’s for dinner? This is a question that humans have been asking for centuries, but its answer is complicated by the realities, consequences, and possibilities of our current age.  Graced—or cursed—with an expansive menu of options, we need to see the way in which the food on our plate sustains and/or threatens the life of God’s creation. As the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, as small, local farmers struggle to stay afloat amidst the rampant pressures of capitalism and industrialism, as people become more insistent on immediacy and convenience, as we replace real, seasonal, whole food with cheap, processed, fake sustenance, as the food industry produces 37% of greenhouse gas emissions every year, as a child dies every five seconds due to hunger-related causes…we cannot deny the importance of food. It has been said that “we vote with our forks,” and so we, as beneficiaries, inhabitants and co-creators in God’s world, are called to eat with gratitude, mindfulness and intentionality.

So, what are we supposed to be eating? What does the Bible say to people of faith about God’s meal plan for us? Can eating really be a way to practice our faith and enliven our spirituality? How should our discipleship inform our eating habits and what do our eating habits say about what we believe?


If we believe that God is fully present in the earth—in plants, animals, soil, air, stars, and humans—then we may say that the way in which we treat earth reflects the way in which we treat the One who created and continues to create all of life.  God has created earth not for human use and abuse, but for the delight and livelihood of all created beings. Because we are called to live in a way that honors, promotes, and celebrates the health and well-being of all life in the cosmos, eating is one way in which we may daily acknowledge and give thanks for the gift of creation. It is through our eating that we first come to know our reliance on human and non-human community. Eating joins us with all other living beings who know hunger and yearn for fulfillment. Our meals are rituals that invite us to take in and live out the grace, love, and goodness of God and God’s earth; in our eating, we are made mindful of our connection to land, water, seed, field, fruit, farmer, laborer, cook, and all the friends and family that gather around our tables.


The scriptures point us again and again to the meaning and sacredness of food. In the Old Testament, we learn of a God who creates a world that is good, dynamic, and interconnected. God forms humans from the earth, gives food to all creatures, and calls humans to take care of all creation. God establishes a covenant with God’s people and promises to nurture, protect, and bless them. In response to God’s faithfulness and life-giving power, the Israelites respond with abundant joy and appreciation. They rely on God for the provision of daily manna. They participate in a cycle of feasts that celebrates the rhythms of creation and honors the generosity of their Creator. They enact dietary and Sabbath laws that seek to remind human beings of their dependence on nature and need for limits. And they imitate the generosity of God by opening their homes and inviting others to their tables.


These ancient traditions inform the life and mission of Jesus, as his ministry continues to honor the sacredness of food. Jesus prays for “daily bread” and exhorts his disciples to turn away from greed and over-consumption and trust in a God who will provide. Reflecting his vision of a world in which all have enough, Jesus fed the 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes. Jesus turns society’s systems of power and privilege upside down by dining with people society wanted to reject—women, lepers, tax collectors, and sinners.  By his participation in community celebrations and religious festivals where food was the focal point, Jesus showed us the importance of food and eating as a way of celebrating God's abundance and binding the community together.  The forty days and nights he spent in the wilderness, fasting in order to gain spiritual strength, demonstrates the power our food practices can have. Jesus realizes that food is both ordinary and sacred; it is a daily, earthy substance that has the power to reveal the presence and goodness of the divine. Jesus refers to basic food—mustard seeds, grapevines, salt, and yeast—as he teaches about God’s kingdom of justice and love. And, in his last meal with his disciples, Jesus takes grain and grape and says, “This is my body and blood, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”


Our holy scriptures are inundated with traditions, stories, and truths that help us see food as central to the Christian life. We are called to care about and delight in the food that we eat. We are called to think about where and how it was grown and transported. We are called to consider the people and labor that participate in our being fed. We are called to nourish and care for our bodies. We are called to recover our relationship with earth and its seasons of planting, growth, harvest, and rest. We are called to pray for and walk with those who have no food on their plates. We are called to gather around the table and break bread with strangers and loved ones, giving thanks for the presence and gift of God and our entire earth community.


As people of faith, we must answer the question, “What’s for dinner?” with discernment, care, and trust. By asking the following questions, we seek to respond attentively and faithfully: Can we be true and truthful if the food we consume is not truly food?  Will we be able to nurture our families and friends if our meals are not nutritious?  Can we call ourselves disciples if our eating habits are undisciplined?  Or spiritually mature if the produce on our table has been picked prematurely and then forcibly matured through modern chemistry? Every meal gives us the opportunity to  give thanks, nurture and empower healthy bodies, healthy communities, and a healthy and sustainable world.

            Our prayer is that this compilation may serve as a resource for congregations and individuals as they further their commitment to creation care and mindful eating. This resource is divided into the following sections: worship, education, fellowship, outreach/mission, and daily discipleship, with additional information about gardening, composting, and… at the end.

Congregational Resources

Worship—Education—Fellowship—Mission/Outreach—Daily Discipleship



            *          Serve local bread and wine at communion

            *          Invite the congregation to make homemade communion bread

                        Recipe can be found at:  HYPERLINK "http://www.luthersem.edu/                                               resources/communion_bread_recipe.asp" http://www.luthersem.edu/                                               resources/communion_bread_recipe.asp)

            *          Invite people to participate in an offering of letters during or after worship

                        Bread for the World:  HYPERLINK "http://www.bread.org"                                              www.bread.org

            *          Include interesting news or facts about food and eating (seasonal produce,                                     gardening tips, nutrition info, local farms, community events, food policy,                          etc.) in the bulletin or church newsletter

            *          Create and present a scripture drama or liturgical dance based on the

                        Feeding of the 5000 or the Wedding at Cana.

            *          Enlist quilters and painters and sculpters in the congregation to design and                                     oversee a community art project which can be displayed in the worship

                        space on the themes of: Thankfulness, Abundance, Creation, and Justice

            *          See the Web of Creation home page for Hymn and Prayer resources

                                    Harvest for the World: A Worship Anthology on Sharing in the                                           Work of Creation, compiled by Geoffrey Duncan, 2003.


            Adult Education:

            *          Host a forum about food issues and the importance of mindful eating


            *          Take part in a bible study that focuses on issues of food and sustainability

                        Good places to start:

                        Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of

                                     the Bible, Ellen F. Davis, 2009.

                            Food and Faith: Justice, Joy, and Daily Bread, edited by Michael


                            Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating, L. Shannon Jung

         *        Put together a small-group book study. A few recommendations are:

                                    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

                                    Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry

                                    Harvest of Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall

                                    Omnivore’s Dilemma

                                    In Defense of Food

                                    The Botany of Desire, and Food Rules by Michael Pollan


            *          Invite a local farmer or gardener to speak about their relationship with food                                    and land, and the difference we can make as consumers


            *          Show and discuss documentaries related to food, global warming,                                      ecological sustainability, etc. A few recommendations are:

                                    King Corn: directed by Aaron Woolf, written by Ian Cheney and                                                   Curtis Ellis (2007)

                                    Fast Food Nation: directed by Richard Linklater, written by Eric                                                    Schlosser (2006)

                                    The Real Dirt on Farmer John: Directed by Taggart Siegel (2005)

                                    The Botany of Desire: based on book by Michael Pollan; produced                                                  and directed by Michael Schwarz (2009)

                                    Gardens of Destiny: directed by Jocelyn Demers (2008)

                                    Tableland: Pixel One Productions

                                    Ingredients: The Local Food Movement Takes Root: Optic Nerve                                                     Productions (2009)

            *          Host a “how to compost” forum that presents many different ways people                          may compost at home. Resources include:

                                    Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm                                                       Composting System  by Mary Appelhof

                                     HYPERLINK "http://www.composting101.com"                                                                            www.composting101.com



            *          Put together a series of sessions on “Sustainable Eating” and invite                                                 members of the congregation to contribute their ideas and wisdom. Topics/                                    activities may include sewing, canning, meal-planning and preparation,                                  nutrition classes, gardening

            *          Offer cooking and nutrition classes.

            *          Host a hunger meal to increase awareness of hunger and poverty

                                     HYPERLINK "http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/                                                  Responding-to-the-World/ELCA-World-Hunger/Resources/For-                                         Congregations/Activities/Hunger-Meals.aspx" http://www.elca.org/                                     Our-Faith-In-Action/Responding-to-the-World/ELCA-World-                                          Hunger/Resources/For-Congregations/Activities/Hunger-                                                      Meals.aspx

                                     HYPERLINK "http://www.lutheranpeace.net/                                                                       HungerAwarenessMeal9d.pdf" www.lutheranpeace.net/                                                       HungerAwarenessMeal9d.pdf

Youth/Child Education:

            *          Serve local, seasonal produce; Look closely at all the parts of the plant and                                     fruit; Talk about the wonder and gift of creation

            *          Trace kids’ favorite foods back to their origins (include field, country and/or                      climate of origin, transportation, factory, etc.)

            *          Play in the dirt or plant flowers or herbs in small pots—it’s important for                            kids to know that their food comes from the ground and not from trucks and                     supermarket stands!

            *          For older kids, use the plant activity/devotional (found on page 8) to help                           them relate the growth of plants to their own growth in faith

            *          Invite kids to write and share their own prayers of thanksgiving before a                            meal

            *          Create a creation mural and hang it in a visible place in the church

            *          If the church has a community garden, invite the children to participate in the                    planting, weeding, and picking.  Consider how edibles might be added

                        to the Church's landscaping.

            *          Invite a Sunday School class to make communion bread and/or serve                                  communion at worship


            *          Serve healthy, local food for social hour, church potlucks, Bible School                              snacks, etc. Educate about the source and nutrition of the food.

            *          Create snacks and refreshments that mark the Liturgical Year Using:

                        Jan Wilson's: Feasting for Festivals: Customs and Recipes to Celebrate

                            the Christian Year or, Biblical Garden Cookery, by Eileen Gaden

            *          Serve and sell fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate


            *          Order fair trade products at: http://www.lwrcoffee.com/

            *          Eliminate Styrofoam and use re-usable dishes.

            *          Invite members of the congregation to contribute mugs. Provide a mug rack                                   and use these mugs during coffee hour.

            *          Encourage people to bring their own plates, cups, and utensils to meals.

            *          Compost food waste

                                    howtocompost.org HYPERLINK "http://www.cityfarmer.org"                                                       www.cityfarmer.org

                                    Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm                                           Composting System  by Mary Appelhof

                                     HYPERLINK "http://www.composting101.com"                                                                www.composting101.com

            *          Rid church of vending machines.

            *          Create a church cookbook and invite members to contribute their favorite                           recipes.

            *          Plan a community trip to a local farm or orchard

            *          Plan activities that get people out in nature! Swimming, sledding, kickball,                                     ultimate Frisbee, outdoor picnic, apple-picking…

            *          Host a vegetarian potluck. Educate about the environmental impact of meat.


            *          Throw a “Sustainable Dinner Party”

                         HYPERLINK "http://www.sustainabletable.org/spread/kits/" http://                                               www.sustainabletable.org/spread/kits/

            *          Sponsor a food drive. Encourage people to bring healthy, wholesome food.

            *          Form Dinner Groups within the congregation as a way of connecting

                        new members and visitors to the church family.  Plan meals by committee

                        to insure healthy/mindful food choices and preparation and also to

                        promote unity.

            *          Have an annual Church-wide Progressive Dinner at harvest time which                               focuses on seasonal foods.  Locate each course at member's gardens or                                     farms.  Or pre-arrange to eat each course at a different whole foods store or                              restaurant.

            *          Plan the annual church picnic to coincide with the local Farmer's Market, or

                        arrange to meet and eat at a nearby CSA farm.  (Community Supported





            *          Minimize food waste by sending home leftovers or sharing leftovers with                           shut-ins and local pantries or shelters

            *          Encourage individuals and families to set aside one meal a week as a                                  “hunger awareness” meal. Consider sending money that would have been                            spent on that particular meal to an organization that helps those who are                                     hungry.

            *          Participate in an offering of letters to elected government leaders concerning                      issues of food, hunger, and public health

                                    Bread for the World: www.bread.org

            *          Make reusable grocery bags with the church logo, or invite the youth of the                                    congregation to decorate reusable bags. Encourage people to keep these                              bags in their cars, purses, or bike pockets. 

            *          Plant a community garden on church grounds instead of chemically treated

                        landscaping. Share the produce with local food banks.

                         HYPERLINK "http://www.communitygarden.org"                                                                                     www.communitygarden.org

            *          Become a drop off point for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).                             Encourage members to participate.  www.localharvest.org

Daily Discipleship

            *          Begin each meal with prayer. Offer thanksgiving for all the love and labor                          that has gone into the meal, and pray for those who go without food. (See                           Table Prayers below for a few suggestions.)


            *          Buy local, seasonal produce from a farmers’ market or CSA


            *          Grow something edible—even if it is only an herb in a flowerpot.

                                    From Container to Kitchen: Growing Fruits and Vegetables in Pots

                                                by D.J. Herda

            *          Start a small vegetable garden.  To get started try:

                                    Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening



                                    "Organic Gardening" by Rodale (published 6 times a year)

                                    "Mother Earth News"

                                    On the Web:


                                    The Seed Savers Exchange @  www.seedsavers.org

            *          Use Companion Planting as a sustainable way to protect your garden from                                     pests and disease. Plant marigolds, chrysanthemums, chives, onions, garlic,                                     basil, horseradish, mint or thyme among your garden plants. Their natural                                     odors and root secretions repel some insects.  Check with your local county                             or university extension office for a list of what works best in your area.


            *          Take part in a community garden.

                        www.community garden.org

            *          Compost food waste. Or find a gardener in your church who would                                                appreciate having all your food scraps. Use a small compost bucket on your                        kitchen counter, lined with biodegradable bags.  When full - freeze them                               until you have several ready for delivery.  Compostable materials are gold to                  gardeners!  Suggest trading your scraps for some fresh produce at harvest!

            *          Purchase books and periodicals for the Church's Library so that

                        others may benefit from your research.

            *          Start small. If eating seasonally or locally is new to you, start with two to                           three seasonal meals a week.

            *          Try a new vegetable as a way to support genetic diversity.

            *          Eat outdoors.

            *          Sweeten foods with honey instead of refined sugar or corn syrup.

            *          Aim to eat five fruits and vegetables per day.

            *          Choose sustainably-grown or organic foods (see information about organic                                     foods on pages 19-23)

                        Sustainable Table Website:  HYPERLINK "http://                                                                www.sustainabletable.org/intro/whatis/" http://www.sustainabletable.org/                           intro/whatis/

                        Mayo Clinic’s guidelines on organic food: http://www.mayoclinic.com/                              health/organic-food/NU00255

            *          Set your fork down between bites. Savor the taste and be attentive to your                                     body.

            *          Check out the Slow Food Movement:  HYPERLINK "http://                                              www.slowfoodusa.org" http://www.slowfoodusa.org

            *          Connect exercise and eating: Try gardening instead of going to the gym for           

                        your exercise.

            *          Connect with your food during meals.  Try eating in complete silence.

                        Turn off the TV, Ipod, Cell phone, Radio, etc.  Contemplate your food

                        while you are eating it.  Heighten the awareness of your 5 senses.

            *          Read the labels—know what you are eating (see page 17).

            *          Eat less meat.

                        Eating one less quarter-pounder a month saves 600 gallons of water!


            *          Eat real food. (See page 16). Go through your pantry.  Read all the labels.

                        Remove anything containing trans-fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and any

                        thing artificial: especially, flavor, color, and sweeteners.

            *          If you are single, eat a few meals each week with neighbors, family, and                             friends.

            *          As a family, covenant to eat dinner together every night. Invite every person                      to take part in the preparation of the meal.

            *          Become a fan of less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables. Foods don’t have to                     be flawless or of a certain shape or size to be delicious and nutritious.

            *          Preserve local produce for seasons when produce is limited. Freeze green                            peppers for chili, can a batch of salsa, dry some rosemary, use windfall                          apples to make applesauce.

            *          Make double recipes of soups, stews, and breads. Freeze half for a quick                            meal on another day.  Cook with neighbors and friends to lighten the load.

            *          Try a new recipe. (See Cookbooks below)

            *          Try going a week without a trip to the store. Be creative with the jars and                           cans that have been hiding in the back of the pantry or fridge.

            *          Start or join a dinner group in your congregation.

            *          “Vote” with your dollars by spending your food budget on foods that reflect                     your values.

            *          Buy fairly traded products such as coffee, chocolate, or tea. Ask your local                                    supermarket or coffeehouse to carry fairly traded foods.

            *          Invite a friend to a local farmers’ market or co-op and carpool.

            *          Advocate for government policies—both domestic and international—that                                     permit countries to make local food production for local consumption a                              priority.

            *          Invite a child to cook with you. Teach him/her why you choose the foods                           that you do.

            *          Get to know a farmer. Visit a farm.

            *          Choose meat, milk, and eggs from free range, grass-fed animals.

            *          Request COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) on foods so you can make an                                    informed decision.

            *          Befriend migrant workers. Promote fair wages and fair immigration laws.

            *          Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). If you are single or your                          family is small, team up with a friend to purchase a share

Supplemental Resources

Plant Activity for Older Youth


Written by Anna Rohde and Beth Atkins

Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp Garden Coordinators, Summer 2009

Descriptions of plant parts taken from www.instructorweb.com


Have children draw a plant.  It is likely they will leave off the root system.  Talk about how there is usually about the same amount of plant below ground that we can’t see as there is above ground where we can see it. 

Roots you might eat:

Carrots                                   Radishes                                                Ginger

Beets                                      Onions                                   Jicama

Potatoes                                                Yams                                     Sweet Potatoes

What are the roots of a plant?  What are they for? 

In a plant, roots function to:

attach the plant firmly to the soil

suck water and mineral salts from the soil

The root is the beginning and main source for the growth of a plant. The roots are strong and help the plant to remain healthy. If the roots have a disease, the entire plant likely has a disease.

Define… how do we use “root” in language?  It often references plants, but not always.  When it’s not, does it seem to be getting at the same basic idea?

Subterranean plant part; functions as organ of absorption, aeration, and food storage or as means of anchorage and support. 

Part of a tooth within a socket, part of hair within the skin

Something that is an origin or source.  
~heart; used in phrase “at root”
~tie;  “put down roots in the ______ community”

Core of a word (ex:  livelihood, root word is “live”)

Lowest tone of a chord in music

Parallel in life:  So, what are our roots in life?  What keeps us firmly in the soil of our community?  What helps nourish us (with the water and nutrients that we need)?  Have campers share what they see their roots as at home.

Scriptural Roots References

2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. ---(King James Bible, Colossians)

3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  ---(King James Bible, Ephesians)


Scriptural Stem Reference: (often seen as a prophesy of Christ’s coming)

11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 11:2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

                (King James Bible, Isaiah)


1.  a plant part that supports another (as a leaf or fruit)

the main upright member at the bow of a ship

a line of ancestry

the short perpendicular line extending from the head of a musical note

(as a verb) have or trace an origin <her success stems from hard work>

Stems you might eat:
(ask to brainstorm)

Celery                                    Bamboo shoots                   Asparagus

Rhubarb                                                Sugar cane                            Daffodil

Plant Function:

Stems function to:

Carry the water and minerals absorbed in the roots and leaves to other plant parts for use throughout the plant..

The stem also helps the plant to stand erect (or not, based on the type of plant).
Some plants have hard and strong trunks, while others are soft and flexible. There are still other plants that are too weak to be erect and normally travel across the ground such as a pumpkin. Other plants are weak, but need to have support and usually attach themselves to stronger elements. These plants include vines, tomatoes, and weeds, and are termed as climbers.

Apply to life:

If your roots are your home/family/history, and the soil you are grounded in (growing in, rooted in) is Christ, what could your stem be?  Remember that stems allow you to carry the things you have gained from your roots and the soil into your actions elsewhere.  (What makes them able to stand up in their faith?  What allows them to learn to grow in their faith on their own?  ….Stem = school, Sunday school, camp, learning experiences).

What kind of stem do you want to have?  How might you help your stem grow strong? 

Close in prayer.


Scriptural Leaf Reference:

8:10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 8:11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

                (King James Bible, Genesis)

Leaves you might eat:

Spinach                                 Parsley                                   Grape leaves

Lettuce                                  Sage                                       Cabbage

Beet greens                           Basil (pesto)                          Mint

Plant Function:

Leaves function as the chief food manufacturing plant part.  Normally green in color (in the mid-term of the season’s cycle), they begin to turn colors when the days become shorter in the fall. 

The green indicates the presence of the chemical chlorophyll and while it is green, it manufactures food using the sun, water and a gas called CO.2   The leaf takes CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the air, which is its main nutrient. The process by which plants prepare their own food from air, water and sunlight is called photosynthesis.

Apply to life:

What could the leaves on your spiritual plant represent?  We’ve talked about how your roots are your home, family and past experiences (grounded in Christ), and your stem is made up of those things that help you stand up on your own (school, Sunday school, camp, learning experiences).  But roots only absorb soil and water, which aren’t enough for plants to grow – they also need sunlight and CO2, absorbed through leaves. 

What things “feed” you spiritually?  What things help you make your own spiritual path and strengthen your connection to God, outside of your roots?  What are ways you can take ownership of your faith walk?  (Some ideas: worship, prayer practices, reading scripture, hiking to experience God’s creation….) 


Scripural Flower References:

40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

                (King James Bible, Isaiah)

6:28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

                (King James Bible, Matthew)

Function in plant:

Flowers attract insects, birds, or bats to pollinate the plant.  In order to produce fruit and/or seeds, most plants need pollination.  We think of flowers as being fragrant and brightly colored.  Many are, but many flowers do not smell and are the same color as the rest of the plant they are growing on. 

Flowers you might eat:* 

Cauliflower                           Pansy/Viola/Johnny-Jump-ups        Chive flowers      

Broccoli                                 Squash Blossoms                                                Nasturtium

Artichoke                              Chamomile                                           Roses                    

Lavender                                               Thyme flowers                                     Basil flowers        

*Note: do NOT try eating flowers on your own… many can make you very, very sick.

Apply to Life:

            List your personal attributes, character traits and talents.  These things make you unique in God's kingdom.  What part do your personality, attitude, appearance, abilities, likes and dislikes, character and sexuality play in shaping your choices?  In connecting you to other people?  Do they help or hinder your spiritual growth or the spiritual growth of friends, family and strangers?  How can our individual traits serve of hinder our faith life?  How are they fed and supported by our "roots, stems and leaves?"

Fruits and Seeds!

Fruits you might eat:

Tomatoes                              Avocado                                               Oranges

Pears                                      Limes                                     Bananas

Apples                                    Strawberries                          Cherries

Watermelon                          Raspberries                           Kiwi

Scriptural Fruit References:

Exodus 10:15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.  ---                (King James Bible)

Exodus 23:10 And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: 23:11 But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.

                (King James Bible)

Ezekial 17:8 It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.

                (King James Bible)

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

                (King James Bible)

John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

                (King James Bible)

Leviticus 25:3-4 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

                (King James Bible)

Apply to life:

                Which fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22 is your life producing?  Which of these fruits still needs to be cultivated?  It is a life long process...so be careful with your self.  I Corinthians 12:27 lists many spiritual gifts given to believers for the building up of the Body of Christ, the church.  They include: apostles, prophets, teachers, deeds of power, healing, the ability to assist and help others wisely, leadership,  the gift of understanding spiritual truths,  and the gift of helping others to understand spiritual truths.  Paul says the church is like a body:  all the parts are valuable and necessary. 

                What part are you?  What spiritual gift has God blessed you with to help strengthen the body of Christ and keep it functioning in a healthy way?  How might God be calling me to use my gifts to build up my family and friends, to build up the kingdom of God in the world?

                What seeds of faith have been planted in you?  Who planted them? How have the gifts of others sustained and nourished you in times of difficulty and sorrow?  in times of joy and celebration?  How might you use your fruits of the Spirit and your spiritual gifts to plant seeds of faith in others?

Table Prayers


Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest; let these gifts to us be blessed. Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Blessed be God, who is our bread, may all the world be clothed and fed. Amen.

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Gracious God, bless us and these your gifts, which we receive from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (prayer of Martin Luther, after Psalm 145)


God, for daily bread, we give thanks. To those who have bread, give hunger for justice, and to those who hunger, give bread. (Nicaraguan prayer)

O, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need:

the sun, the rain, and the apple seed.  The Lord is good to me. Amen. (Johnny Appleseed)




            Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappe, 1991.

            Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, John Peterson, 2006.

            Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair, 2008.


            The Farmer’s Market Cookbook, Richard Ruben, 2000.

            The Self-Healing Cookbook, Kristina Turner, 2002.

            The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide to Natural Foods with 350

                        Recipes, edited by Steve Petusevsky, 2002.

            From the Mennonite Central Committee

            Extending the Table: The World on a Plate, Schlabach & Burnett

            More-With-Less Cookbook, Doris Janzen Longacre, 2001

            Simply in Season, Cathleen Hockman-Wert

            Simply in Season: Children's Cookbook


Eat Well Guide (online listing of sustainable food resources by zip code):  HYPERLINK "http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home" http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home

Local Harvest (guide to farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture programs, organic farms, and other local resources):  HYPERLINK "http://www.localharvest.org/" http://www.localharvest.org/

Food Routes (national non-profit dedicated to re-introducing Americans to their food):  HYPERLINK "http://www.foodroutes.org/" http://www.foodroutes.org/

Sustainable Table (celebrates local sustainable food, educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community through food):  HYPERLINK "http://www.sustainabletable.org/" http://www.sustainabletable.org/

Slow Food Movement (grassroots movement that links pleasure of food with a commitment to community and earth):  HYPERLINK "http://www.slowfoodusa.org" http://www.slowfoodusa.org

Meatless Monday (a campaign to reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet):  HYPERLINK "http://www.meatlessmonday.com/" http://www.meatlessmonday.com/

Bread for the World ( HYPERLINK "http://www.bread.org" www.bread.org)

Northwest Earth Institute (Organization that provides resources for study discussion groups on sustainability, global warming, simple living, etc.):  HYPERLINK "http://www.nwei.org/discussion_courses/course-offerings/menu-for-the-future" http://www.nwei.org/discussion_courses/course-offerings/menu-for-the-future


“When we eat, we must very soon eat again. If we dare to contemplate fully the act of eating, we will be led to the unavoidable awareness of our continual desire to live, and also our utter dependence upon the generosity of the Earth and its peoples and the power and grace by which our lives are sustained.” –Sharon Parks

“To realize that our food choices influence not only our own health, but also the health of the land and rural communities, is to move toward taking responsibility for our participation. In accepting such responsibility, we honor those community connections that bring us our daily bread. With this awareness comes the possibility of eating more sacramentally, fostering healing.” (Michael Schut, Food and Faith)

“Here, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we now face an epidemic of malnutrition. By malnutrition we don’t only mean the plight of those Americans who aren’t getting enough calories; we also mean that of millions who are filling their bodies with foods that don’t healthfully nourish them. One-fourth of all Americans now eat a meal from a fast-food joint at least once a day.” (Marion Nestle, Food and Faith)

“The outer harmony that we desire between our economy and the world depends finally upon an inward harmony between our own hearts and the originating spirit that is the life of all creatures, a spirit as near us as our flesh and yet forever beyond measures of this obsessively measuring age. We can grow good wheat and make good bread only if we understand that we do not live by bread alone.” (Wendell Berry)

“We don’t know beans about beans. Asparagus, potatoes, turkey drumsticks—you name it, we don’t have a clue how the world makes it…Knowing how foods grow is to know how and when to look for them; such expertise is useful for certain kinds of people, namely, the ones who eat, no mater where they live or grocery shop.” (Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable Miracle)

 "Imagine for a moment if we once again knew, strictly as a matter of course, these few unremarkable things:  What it is we're eating.  Where it came from.  How it found its way to our table.  And what, in a true accounting, it really cost....We would no longer need any reminding that however we choose to feed ourselves, we eat by the grace of nature, not industry, and what we're eating is never anything more or less than the body of the world."

(Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma)

Why should I care about what I eat?

Part of our Christian vocation (see theological reflection at beginning)

What and how we eat affects our health, our environment, our local and global economy, our future, and our connection to home, land, community, and God.

Knowing where our food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables us to choose safe, healthy food and avoid food that contains chemicals, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.

The way in which we eat can strengthen a local community. By investing in food that is local, our dollars also stay local. When we buy food directly from local farmers, we ensure that farmers get their fair share of the food dollar and reduce the amount of money that goes to corporate agribusiness, packaging, and transportation. Farmers reinvest our food dollars in the local economy, increasing the circulation and economic prosperity in a local region.

“We vote with our fork!” The decisions we make about the food we purchase and prepare makes a strong statement about who and what we support.

Our way of eating is intricately tied to the health and destruction of the environment. By eating fresh, whole, local foods, we contribute to the sustenance of our planet by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the use of packaging materials.

Conscious grocery choices show our concern for generations of life to come. We are little links in an enormous, complex web of life, and future generations will be affected by the decisions we make.

Mindful eating awakens an awareness of all the living beings that sustain our nourishment and life, namely, the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters.

The knowledge and enjoyment of food form a cornerstone of pleasure, culture, and community.


We consume about 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen—about 17% of our nation’s energy use—for agriculture. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally or organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.

Every year, farmers feed about 25 million pounds of antibiotics to livestock for growth promotion and disease prevention, almost 8 times the amount given to humans to treat disease.

Half of all fresh water worldwide is used for thirsty livestock. Producing 8 ounces of beef requires 25,000 liters of water; the water necessary for 1 pound of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year.

More than 70% of the grain produced in the United States is fed to livestock, most of it to cattle.

Our global food system has resulted in severe food shortages and rising prices. From 2006 to 2008, world prices of wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans roughly tripled.

The food system as a whole contributes to 37% of carbon emissions (due to farm machinery, irrigation, tilling, fertilizers, pesticides, canning and freezing, packaging, transportation).

Almost every state in the U.S. buys 85% to 90% of its food from somewhere else. Most food travels an average of 1,500 miles, much of it from across the world, whereas a typical food item grown locally travels 200 miles.

Currently, 98% of chickens in the United States are produced by large corporations.



How do I know if my food is “real”?

By “real,” we mean whole, naturally produced, healthy, and fresh

Ask yourself the following questions:

Can I imagine it growing?

It is easier to picture a wheat field or an apple on a tree. Tough to picture a field of marshmallows or stream of diet soda.

How many ingredients does it have?

A whole food has only one ingredient—itself. No label of ingredients is necessary on simple foods like apples, salmon, and wild rice.

What’s been done to the food since it was harvested?

The less, the better. Many foods we eat no longer resemble anything found in nature. Stripped, refined, bleached, injected, hydrogenated, chemically treated, irradiated, and gassed, modern foods have literally had the life taken out of them. Read the list of ingredients on the labels: if you can’t pronounce it or can’t imagine it growing, don’t eat it. If it is not something that you could possibly make in your kitchen or grow in your garden, be wary.

Is this product “part” of a food or the “whole” entity?

Juice is only a part of a fruit. Oil is only part of the olive. When we eat a lot of partial foods, our body in its natural wisdom will crave the parts it didn’t get.

How long has this food been known to nourish human beings?

Sounds rough, but criteria should be at least a couple hundred years. Putting something on toast or in tea that the FDA just approved last month warrants caution. Time and again the rush to put a new drug, supplement, or food additive on the market has had questionable long-term effects. Most whole foods have been on the dinner table for centuries.

Source: Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with whole foods, Cynthia Lair; Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2008.


What do all these labels mean?

(Deconstructing market vocabulary)

Antibiotic Free: indicates food from animals that were not given antibiotics during its lifetime

Fair Trade: means that farmers and workers in developing countries have received a fair wage and worked in decent conditions while growing and packaging the product.

Free-Range: the use of the terms “free-range” or “free-roaming” are only defined by the USDA for egg and poultry production. The label can be used as long as the producers allow the poultry access to the outdoors so they are able to engage in natural behaviors. It does not necessarily mean that the products are cruelty-free, antibiotic-free, or that the animals spent the majority of their time outdoors. Claims are defined by the USDA, but not verified by third-party inspectors.

GMO-Free: indicates products that are produced without being genetically engineered through the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Genetic engineering is the process of transferring specific traits or genes from one organism into a different plant or animal.

Grain-fed: Animals raised on a diet of grain. Check the label for “100% Vegetarian Diet,” to ensure the animals were given feed containing no animal byproducts.

Grass-fed: Animal fed grass rather than grain. They should not be supplemented with grain, animal byproducts, synthetic hormones, or given antibiotics to promote growth or prevent disease, although they may have been given antibiotics to treat disease. A “grass-fed” label doesn’t mean the animal necessarily ate grass its entire life. Some grass-fed cattle are “grain-finished,” which means they ate grain from a feedlot prior to slaughter.

Healthy: food that is low in fat and saturated fate and contains limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium. Certain foods must also contain at least 10% of one or more of vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein or fiber.

"High", "Rich in" or "Excellent Source": 20% or more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient per serving

"Less", "Fewer" or "Reduced": At least 25% less of a given nutrient or calories than the comparison food

"Low", "Little", "Few", or "Low Source of": An amount that would allow frequent consumption of the food without exceeding the Daily Value for the nutrient – but can only make the claim as it applies to all similar foods

"Good Source Of", "More", or "Added": The food provides 10% more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient than the comparison food

Organic: refers to foods that have been grown and handled without the use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones or irradiation.

“100 percent organic:” All ingredients are organic

“Organic”: At least 95% of ingredients are organic

“Made with organic ingredients”: At least 70% of ingredients organic

Natural: the only “natural” foods regulated by the USDA are meat and poultry. If meat and poultry are labeled “natural,” they have been minimally processed without adding artificial ingredients; other food industries may use the term loosely. “Natural” does not signify “healthy” or “organic” because a food can be “natural” and still include high levels of fat, sugar, corn syrup, and sodium.

Organic foods: Buy or Bypass?

You're in a bit of a dilemma standing in front of the produce section of your local supermarket. In one hand, you're holding a conventionally grown Granny Smith apple. In your other hand, you have one that's labeled organically grown. Both apples are firm, shiny and green. Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.

The conventionally grown apple costs less and is a proven family favorite. But the organic apple has a label that says "USDA Organic." Does that mean it's better? Safer? More nutritious? Several differences between organic and nonorganic foods exist. Become a better-informed consumer for your next trip to the supermarket.

Conventional vs. Organic farming

The word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

Here are other differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional farmers

Organic farmers

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.

Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.

Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease.

Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.

Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds.

Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.

Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.

Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Organic or not? Check the label.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any farmer or food manufacturer who labels and sells a product as organic must be USDA certified as meeting these standards. Only producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from this certification; however, they must follow the same government standards to label their foods as organic.

If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it's produced and processed according to the USDA standards and that at least 95 percent of the food's ingredients are organically produced. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry a small USDA seal. Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal or the following wording on their package labels, depending on the number of organic ingredients:

100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.

Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.

Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can't be used on these packages.

Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can't use the organic seal or the word "organic" on their product label. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.

You may see other terms on food labels, such as "all-natural," "free-range" or "hormone-free." These descriptions may be important to you, but don't confuse them with the term "organic." Only those foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

Many factors may influence your decision to buy — or not buy — organic food. Consider these factors:

Nutrition. No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.

Quality and appearance. Organic foods meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods. The difference lies in how the food is produced, processed and handled. You may find that organic fruits and vegetables spoil faster because they aren't treated with waxes or preservatives. Also, expect less-than-perfect appearances in some organic produce — odd shapes, varying colors and perhaps smaller sizes. In most cases, however, organic foods look identical to their conventional counterparts.

Pesticides. Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. Most experts agree, however, that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses a very small health risk.

Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil.

Cost. Most organic food costs more than conventional food products. Higher prices are due to more expensive farming practices, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. Because organic farmers don't use herbicides or pesticides, many management tools that control weeds and pests are labor intensive. For example, organic growers may hand weed vegetables to control weeds, and you may end up paying more for these vegetables.

Taste. Some people say they can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food. Others say they find no difference. Taste is a subjective and personal consideration, so decide for yourself. But whether you buy organic or not, finding the freshest foods available may have the biggest impact on taste.

Buying tips

Whether you're already a fan of organic foods or you just want to shop wisely and handle your food safely, consider these tips:

Buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality. Also, try to buy your produce the day it's delivered to market to ensure that you're buying the freshest food possible. Ask your grocer what day new produce arrives.

Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it's organic or contains organic ingredients doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.

Don't confuse natural foods with organic foods. Only those products with the "USDA Organic" label have met USDA standards.

Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria. If appropriate, use a small scrub brush — for example, before eating apples, potatoes, cucumbers or other produce in which you eat the outer skin.

If you're concerned about pesticides, peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables in addition to washing them thoroughly. Keep in mind that peeling your fruits and vegetables may also reduce the amount of nutrients and fiber. Some pesticide residue also collects in fat, so remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish.

What are the differences between sustainable and organic agriculture? When is organic not sustainable?

Both organic and sustainable agriculture strive to preserve the land for generations to come and have many similarities, but one system is not necessarily better than the other. The main difference between the two methods of production is that organic food production must be certified yearly by an independent third-party certifier approved by the US Department of Agriculture. Sustainable food has no independent certification process, and the consumer must rely on the word of the farmer. In addition, sustainability is more of a philosophy or way of life, whereas organic is a specific set of government-verified standards.

The issue can be confusing – for example, even though organic is certified by the USDA, large corporations have found ways to raise dairy cows in confinement, use massively large acreages to plant crops, and ship food thousands of miles to sell. These practices are not considered sustainable.

The bottom line for any consumer is to know where your food comes from. Think carefully about your meals and take pleasure in eating food that is sustainable and healthy!

Reasons to buy and eat organic foods:

Keep chemicals off your plate.
Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms. They have been shown to cause cancer and liver, kidney, and blood diseases, creating extra work for the immune system. Organic agriculture prevents more of these chemicals from getting into the air, water and food supply.

Protect future generations.
Children are four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults.

Protect water quality.
The EPA estimates that pesticides pollute the public’s primary source of drinking water for more than half of the U.S. population.

Save energy.
More energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate, and harvest all the crops in the U.S.

Help small farmers.
Although more large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms. USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms, offering an alternative market where sellers can demand fair prices for crops.

Support a true economy.
Organic foods may seem expensive at first, but our tax dollars pay for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming.

Promote biodiversity.
Since 1900, 75% of genetic diversity of crops has been lost to large-scale, corporate-run, export-oriented, mono-cropping agriculture. This obliteration of natural diversity threatens the vitality of the land, wipes out small farmers, deprives soil of minerals, and demands use of chemical fertilizers.

Enhanced nourishment.
Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil. Well-maintained soil produces strong, healthy plants that have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce.

Enjoy the flavor.
Organic produce simply tastes better.

This information on organic food was gathered from Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) and Integrative Nutrition ( HYPERLINK "http://www.integrativenutrition.com/" http://www.integrativenutrition.com/).

Why shop local?

Highest quality in taste, variety, and freshness

Strengthens local economy

Protects the environment

Supports local farmers

Promotes health

Builds community

Fosters relationship with the land and its seasons