THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
Nutrition and the Food We Eat
WEEK IV / DAY II
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Scripture / Proverbs 20:17 and Leviticus 19:9-10
Bread of deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. (KJV)
Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel. (NIV)
— Proverbs 20:17
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. — Leviticus 19:9-10
Our History and Its Legacy
This Proverb from King Solomon was written inside my journal for high school English class and is one I still remember. I could almost feel the small stones crushing against my teeth and I never wanted to ingest the bread of deceit.
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York that only had two Black families. It wasn’t until I moved to Washington, DC after college and started living with three African-American friends that I really started learning about food and its cultural and historical connections to slavery. One day a housemate brought home some chitterlings, or chitlins, to cook. Even my other roommates objected to the foul smell. These pork intestines and other offal were unwanted parts of the pig given to enslaved people, like other low-income populations. They were able to take the discards and make them delicacies that live on in soul food and Southern cuisine even today. All of us inherit many of our food ways from our ancestors and I now understand a bit of how slavery affected what we eat. Those viewed as at the bottom of the food chain are provided food that is not desirable to those at the top.
Part of this legacy lives on in the disparities we still see between African-Americans and Whites related to access to food and resulting nutrition. In the richest country in the history of the world, we still have one out of every four African-American children threatened by hunger. According to USDA, one out of five African-American households (21.5%) does not always have enough food to put on the table, while it is one in 10 White households (10%).
We see this also in health disparities and nutrition related diseases. We see it reflected in the very lives of Black people today. “In terms of health, there’s a five-year penalty for being African-American compared to being a white male,” states a Harvard Medical School doctor. In addition to the lower life expectancy (you are what you eat), African-Americans were one and a half times as likely to be obese as Non-Hispanic Whites and twice as likely to have diabetes, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Also, a great deal of research has concluded that neighborhoods consisting primarily of minorities — in particular, African-Americans — with low incomes have fewer supermarkets than wealthier, predominantly White neighborhoods. The percent of the population that is Non-Hispanic Black is over twice as large in urban food deserts than in other urban areas. Calories are cheap and nutrients are expensive and, unfortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than junk food and less accessible in many predominantly Black communities.
The stones of slavery linger in our mouths as a legacy through our cuisine, our agriculture, our food distribution, and health care systems.
Reflection and Response
In God’s economy, all would be fed and well-nourished. Given that we no longer live in an agrarian society and we can’t give away food from our fields to those who hunger, what should we do?
The next time we sit down for a meal and say grace, give thanks for our food and remember all those who do not have enough, or enough of the right foods. What can we do in our worlds to make that a more just system?
The next time we pray the familiar words, “give us this day our daily bread,” reflect on how Jesus provided physical and soul food to all who were hungry.
The next time we are approached by a feeding ministry for support, remember how we have been able to reap the harvest of slavery. Spit out the bread of deceit and savor the bread of life instead.
by Max Finberg