Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grace and Justice

I've been noticing lately that when people say grace before a meal they often mention the hands that prepared it, but leave out the complex justice issues of the food system - like the workers that were exploited to get that food to your table. After talking a lot with Neil James, food scientist from Florida A & M, at our Committee on Science, Technology and Faith, I am more attuned than ever to the plight of the poor, and how the injustices in our food system contribute to it. Reading Raj Patel's Stuffed and Starved on the flight home only reinforced this. And besides, I felt guilty that I did not mark Cesar Chavez Day here in blogland a month ago.

What I am dwelling on right now is this insight from Patel - that we don't need cheaper food. Our government's desire to have cheaper food for the poor, together with vertically integrated agri-chemical companies, are the reason we are in this mess. We need to have a living wage for everyone, so all can afford healthful, local, fresh food.

One of the things that Neil brought to my attention was the issue of Kosher meat. Can it be Kosher if workers are exploited in its processing? What a classic prophetic case - ritual butchering means nothing if those who sell the beef are grinding down the poor. Seems like this issue was hot in the press last summer and I missed it.

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