Tag Archives: food

FFF #18 — Farmlink: Young people doing more than speaking their minds

Posting every Friday at noon is how I act in solidarity with young climate strikers all over the world who want their elders to save their future. 

A good way to encourage your donors

The Farmlink Project has only been around since the beginning of the pandemic but it already has volunteers all over the lower 48 states and Mexico. The leaders are all young and, up until recently, were all volunteers. They became so popular with donors, they have hired staff and organized more good things to do. It’s a wonder.

Their seed thought came after the revelation that a lot of food is wasted by grocery stores, restaurants, institutions and families. They discovered that farmers often aren’t able to get their produce off their farms or find a price good enough to make a profit; so they let it rot in the fields. And this waste happens even when food insecurity is epidemic.

They found ways to get the food to food banks with volunteers collaborating with farmers — and with a bunch of donors. CBS and other outlets were so thrilled with these kids they all created segments to laud their work. Here’s one.

Such a waste of a planet

The World Wildlife Fund says “ an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste. … And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. About 6%-8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if we stop wasting food.”

The world Wildlife fund was started in 1961 by a squad of super rich people and royals, six years before Buffalo Springfield sang For What It’s Worth. Today’s young activists are a lot better at organizing the rich instead of just talking about them.  I think Farmlink is a good example.

Farmlink relates WWF’s stats more colorfully:  “If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.” I did not verify their chart but they offer one to make their point:

Over one-third of all produce grown in the U.S. is wasted every year, and it happens at every step of food production. Tens of millions of pounds of edible produce are left unharvested, lost in transit, processing, or retail, or thrown away by consumers.

The majority of food waste that occurs at the warehouse, store, or consumer level is ultimately sealed in a landfill, where it releases methane—a greenhouse gas with over 30 times the heat trapping ability of carbon dioxide. Landfills are responsible for almost 15 percent of the country’s methane emissions, with organic matter making up the largest percentage of total landfill mass.

Crops left in the field don’t expel the same volume of greenhouse gases, but they do account for massive amounts of wasted resources. A 2016 study estimates that 21 percent of water, 18 percent of cropland, and 19 percent of fertilizer in the U.S. are dedicated to food that is never eaten.

I made a donation to Farmlink and they wrote back with more info:

“Since our founding in April 2020, we have delivered nearly 50 million pounds of produce from farms to food banks — or the equivalent of 42 million meals (and counting)! We have provided $3 million in economic relief to farmers and truck drivers, all the while preventing 40 million pounds of carbon emissions.”

People like me wanted to support this good work. Our donations

“made it possible for us to formalize our 501(c)(3) status and take on a full-time staff, thereby ensuring institutional longevity, as well as build out Carbonlink, our carbon offset program for a sustainable food system….While our small unit of full-time staff focuses on operational continuity, our 120-person volunteer base of students continues to serve as the engine of this organization.”

It is a wonder how these young people cared. And it is a wonder that so many people wanted to support them. I think the greatest wonder is their quick contribution to meeting an obvious need: food insecurity and climate change caused by wasted food.

Faith in the Land of Food Glut

This past week I heard an interesting juxtaposition of comments (maybe veiled criticisms) that made me think that I just might understand Jesus better than I used to.

One person said, “Our church is really good at Lent. But we aren’t that great at joy.” I think they meant that we can relate to being morose and remorseful, we can do pensive and self-critical, but we have a tough time letting loose and being happy. Maybe.

Another person was pondering out loud and said, “Having a pile of goodies as part of worship is a new twist. Gluttony as praise.” He was referring to our weekly invitation to get our taste buds involved in receiving the sweetness of resurrection. One week we had a pile of strawberries littered with chocolates. But he must have been there the week we had a big pile of homemade cookies. Were we encouraging the behavior that makes many of us so food-obsessed and fat? Maybe.

Isn’t it great that people are thinking deep thoughts and not all watching Iron Man 3?

Can one feast or fast in a food glut?

Their comments reminded me of what people said to Jesus. On the one hand, his disciples were aghast at what he said to the rich young man he sent away. When Jesus told them it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom they wondered “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10). Jesus seemed extremely serious and downright austere. The kingdom is a perpetual fast?

One the other hand, people thought John the Baptist was tough, but they thought Jesus was a party boy, in comparison. John seemed like perpetual Lent and Jesus looked like a glutton and a drunkard, eating and drinking with tax collectors and other people on the outs (Luke 7). Jesus seemed committed to joy and freedom and on the edge of being immoral with the immoral. The kingdom is a perpetual feast?

fat-cow-loginFeasting is such a problem for us Americans. We live in a food glut, so we never kill the fatted calf, we decide upon which fatted calf we will eat today.* The vast majority of us have never been hungry and don’t know anyone who has been hungry, ever (even though they are still out there, people: in Philadelphia and in the world). I think many of my plump friends looked at a plate of cookies on the “altar” and it looked like it was mocking them. They’ve eaten so many cookies, they stopped tasting their sweetness ages ago. Food is like a burden they carry. They are always loaded with it, trying in vain to get rid of what’s hanging on them. They can’t feast, just feed at the immense trough.

But fasting is such a problem, too. We live in such a food glut that we are always eating the fatted calf, we have cow factories devoted to providing them at low cost. When we fast we tend to give up the cherry on our perpetual sundae, or go on a brief diet. We can’t get away from excess even if we try. Yesterday, I went to a breakfast meeting, a potluck for Cinco de Mayo (with excellent chips), and two further meetings laden with surfeit snacks! If we endure a season of Lent we think our morose behavior is extraordinary and we long to get back to our sunny diversions — the ones that make Jesus look like such a downer.

Life beyond the perpetual questions

Since we are on the subject. Just sayin'
Since we are on the subject. Just sayin’

I think most of us have been well-trained to live in the quandary I just set up. The people who supplied my original motivation were doing the same thing. There are always the opposing thoughts in any argument or situation and we think our job is to live in the compromised middle of them. We tend to be afraid to move this way or that because there is always that other argument. Does Jesus call us rich people to give it all up, or is he feasting with us sinners and freeing us from condemnation? And there we go again in some endless dialectic.

It seems to me that if all we are talking about are the applied definitions of “fast” and “feast” we are liable to sit around feeling critical of strange things that happen in worship meetings. But strangely hidden in the scriptures that seem so opposite is another approach to listening to God that is not about applying static principles.** Just like the Christian year moves from fasting to feasting along with the seasons of creation, understanding the revelation in Jesus is a journey, a trusting movement through time.

In the Mark 10 passage where the disciples are amazed at how hard Jesus seems to be on the rich man, Jesus is just suggesting a journey. The man needs to move through the “eye of the needle.” Likewise, the disciples need to leave and move with Jesus into eternal life.In the Luke 7 passage where Jesus is accused of being a glutton, it is all about people going out to see John and coming to Jesus, and Jesus going into the marketplace and making relationships. I think both passages are happening along the journey, during which there are days of fasting and suffering and there are days of feasting and joy. It all works out in the purpose of God and in the love we are sharing, not in the appropriate application of good theology, alone.

Faith is a daily matter of trusting God along the journey. Sometimes we can’t make perfect sense of it all. For instance, I went out to dinner twice this weekend. On Friday I went to Harvest at 40th and Walnut, where I had a delicious pork chop and plate with just enough calories on it. The next night I was hungry again and ended up at Tandoor where I had two heaping plates of my favorite dishes from the buffet. I felt a bit guilty after I ate all that food at the wanton Tandoor, like I had betrayed the morality of the austere Harvest. Today I have convinced myself that it is all part of the journey in the land of food glut. I was criticizing myself like people criticized Jesus – and I was, indeed, better at that. But I also really enjoyed all that saag paneer and the pakora, too – and I am letting myself experience that sweetness.

* More on simplicity skills here: link.
**More about not just applying the principles here: link