October 9, 2014

Making Better Faith-Based Food Choices

Sharon Varghese

Sharon Varghese

Research Assistant, Baltimore Food and Faith

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

A Daniel fast is typically a vegan diet.

A Daniel fast incorporates a vegan diet.

Recently, Kim Ease had it in her heart to start a periodic Bible fellowship in a home environment. Attenders of her Bible fellowship, “Bring Your Bible to Brunch” (BYBTB), were preparing to begin a fast based on the biblical character Daniel. The Daniel fast incorporates a vegan diet with water as the only beverage. To prepare, they had been reading the book of Proverbs and applying its lessons to everyday life.

We were invited to BYBTB on Saturday, September 20, to have fellowship, enjoy homemade Trinidadian food, and lead a discussion from the book of Proverbs on making wise food choices. Darriel Harris of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Baltimore Food and Faith Project led our discussion, opening with Proverbs 1:22, which focuses on simplicity.

We often eat in very simple ways. We often do not want to think about where our food comes from, how it affects our health, how justice intertwines, how these choices affect people in our lives, or what God says about our eating. Yet even eating is a spiritual matter.

Members of the BYBTB brought up various points and some of their own reasons for giving in to unhealthy lifestyles. The easy access and low cost of unhealthy foods makes it easier to choose them. Whole, locally grown and fresh produce is often not as easy to obtain, or afford. For those who work during the day, finding the time and energy to cook for children after a long day is difficult. With fast food stores all around, it is tempting to buy easy and cheap foods for our families. Long schedules and little money make simple, unwise eating choices seem like our only feasible option.

But is this really true? In our discussion Saturday, we as a group parsed the consequences of unhealthy eating habits and benefits of healthy food decisions. One member shared how he does not just want to live long, but live well – all functions and capacities working as they ought to be. He tries to only eat whole foods, avoiding unnecessary processing and ingredients.

Others brought up how they want to live healthily to be alive and well for their families and loved ones. It is not fair to our loved ones and future children and grandchildren for us to cut down our health and years, and possibly affect theirs, simply because we are too stuck in our eating patterns of instant satisfaction to want to change for the better. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Stroke, cancer, and diabetes follow closely after. These chronic diseases are not only very costly, but often very preventable. Treating these conditions takes time and money, and in this way, our eating habits do involve others, whether we see it right away or not.

As our eating habits affect loved ones, our choices also affect laborers. Proverbs 1 tells us “to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice and equity.” It is worth knowing how our food is made and how our fellow workers are treated; our food choices have the power to support justice and equity or injustice and inequality. Suppressed workers and unjust working conditions are very real today. The food options we have all around us involve real people, and it is worth knowing the conditions under which our food is made so that we can better support just, sustainable food systems. We should spend money on healthy foods that promote longevity as well as support those who use sustainable means and treat their workers justly, that good practices might flourish.

We also discussed how buying whole, locally grown and fresh produce may be more expensive and time consuming, but it is worth it. If we cut down expenses in certain ways, we can make room for healthier eating and support justice. We will be making a sacrifice in one way, but investing in our health and in others.

Towards the end of our BYBTB discussion, one member brought up how years ago, cooking lessons used to be a typical part of the school curriculum. Today, there is not much focus on cooking in most schools. It may be that these skills are being taught at home, but in today’s work- and school-driven society, these skills are often not being taught at home as much as they may have been in past decades. We discussed how it does not take too much more for us to learn to cook healthily; with the wide availability and access to all kinds of recipes, it is not difficult to learn a few healthy (and tasty) dishes that work for our budget and time. We should be learning cooking skills and intentionally putting time into teaching our families to develop these skills as well. This could be cooking together as a family, or having a different member of the family pick a healthy recipe to cook together each week. If we incorporate living wisely and teaching into our lifestyle, it will not require much more time at all. Living healthily and teaching our families these values does not mean we need to do more things; it means we do things differently.

Making better, faith-based food choices is achievable, and worth the cost and sacrifice as we cultivate longevity, justice, quality family time and personal health. Our discussion encouraged BYBTB members to further prepare for their Daniel fast and enact on the disciplines discussed. We are hoping for encouragement, perseverance and success for the BYBTB group as they take on this challenge of the Daniel fast together.

2 Comments

  1. I once saw a bumper sticker that said “God’s original plan was to hang out in a garden with some naked vegetarians.”

    A bit cheeky, but actually kind-of true.

  2. Awesome article. Since Daniel Fast i have been eating vegan / vegetarian diet. interestingly enough purchasing fruit and vegetables as members of the kimease group previously identified are extremely expensive. It appears cheaper to eat less nutritious meals, however the body really tells a different tale.As a result of participating in the 21 day daniel fast, members reported weight loss, general overall health improvement, decreasing swelling of legs and feet, decreased blood pressure and blood glucose levels and some no longer drink carbonated/ sugary beverages. Some of the group are now extremely motivativated to eat a vegan / vegetarian diet. Could you guys recommend some resources ( besides the farmers market) where someone might obtain more reasonably priced produce.Even a place where we could buy in bulk or a co-op. thanks

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