This comprehensive, intergenerational curriculum focuses on the food we eat and why it matters. Featuring 8 lessons with Scripture, prayers, resources, and activities for young children through adults, “Eating Well” will challenge and inspire your church or community group. Download your copy today.
From the Introduction
Our relationship with food is as simple — and as complex — as that. Every living thing is dependent on nutrition, which makes food an incredibly valuable resource. And how we get it, who gets enough of it, and the choices we make around it become critical social justice issues.
For people of faith, food has incredible symbolic meanings.
It is the stuff of miracles, of punishment, a symbol of welcome and the generosity of the Creator. For Christians, reenacting the Last Supper is one of our most sacred rituals of our faith.
With these things in mind, we have developed “Eating Well: For Ourselves, For Our Neighbors, For Our Planet” from a faith perspective, recognizing both the spiritual nature of a shared meal together as well as the broader implications of what is placed on our tables. As sisters and brothers in Christ, we are called to be good neighbors to each other, good stewards of creation, and good caretakers of the body God has given us. Our relationship with food touches our relationship with just about everyone and everything else: God, ourselves, our neighbors, and creation.
Together, let’s explore this intersecton of food and faith.
For this curriculum, you will need:
- One “Nourish” DVD per group (available online at http://www.nourishlife.org/ or http://bit.ly/nourish-DVD)
- Harvest of Dignity DVD (available online at http://www.ncfan.org/order-harvest-of-dignity-film)
- One booklet per participant or copies of each week’s lessons
- Supplies as described for each week’s activities
Language about Food
It is important to understand that food can be a sensitive issue. You or your participants may have experienced a number of food-related hardships, such as food scarcity or disordered eating.
This curriculum attempts to take such hardships into account. The following terms will appear throughut the curriculum and the definitions that accompany them should be helpful in faciitating fruitful and sensitive discussions.
Food desert: According to the USDA, a food desert is a “low income census tract where a substantial number of residents have low access to a grocery store.” Food deserts can be rural or urban and those that live within them have less access to healthy foods. A 2009 USDA report found that as many as 23.5 million Americans live a mile or more from the nearest supermarket and have limited access to public transportation or a vehicle.
Food swamp: This term refers to a geographic area inundated with the sale of unhealthy foods, often evidenced by a high concentration of fast food restaurants and convenience stores. While a “food swamp” is thus distinct from a “Food desert”, many lower-income geographical areas exhibit the characteristics of both.
Local food: This term refers to food that was grown or produced nearby, and thus does not have to be transported as far before reaching the consumer. The exact distances defining what constitutes “local” vary. For the purpose of this curriculum, “local” will mean “within North Carolina.”
Organic food: This term refers to food that is grown without the use of chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically-modified organisms, and other modern methods that are harmful to the environment. Marketing food as “organic” requires that a farm be officially certified as such by the USDA however, which can be cost-prohibitive for smaller farms.
Slow food: Slow food is everything that fast food is not. It is a movement encouraging the preservation of local and traditional food, as well as local and ecologically-minded farming.
Stewardship: Providing caretaking, management, protection, and/or support to all creation, including the planet, the atmosphere, animals, plants and humans. Stewardship refers to the human task of caring for creation as commanded by God in Genesis 1:28.
About the NC Council of Churches
Since its inception more than 75 years ago, the North Carolina Council of Churches has used Christian values to promote unity and working toward a better tomorrow. This is reflected through the Council’s motto: “Strength in Unity, Peace through Justice.”
Today, the Council consists of 17 member denominations, with more than 6,200 congregations and about 1.5 million congregants across North Carolina. The Council enables those denominations, congregations, and people of faith to impact the state on issues of health and wellness, climate change, immigration policy, farmworker rights, and much more.
In recent yearss, the Council has also focused on a theme connecting each of these issues: food. This curriculum is a part of our effort to help people of faith learn about this most basic necessity for survival, and how it relates to our beliefs.
To learn more about the Council and its work, visit: www.ncchurches.org
Suggestions for Leaders
As you approach the “Eating Well” curriculum as a leader, there are tangible and intangible ways you will want to prepare.
“Eating Well” includes Leader’s Notes at the beginning of each of the seven weeks. These are intended to help guide you through each class. Every week, there are activities listed based on the age group of the participants, from primary to adult. For our purposes, primary is roughly Kindergarten through second grade, intermediate is third through fifth, and youth is sixth through 12th grade.
If you have a mixture of ages, or if there are multiple activities, you will need to decide which activity best fits the time available and the participants. Some activities require advance preparation, such as copying or gathering supplies. Taking the time to read through the curriculum in its entirety before introducing it to a group would be optimal, and we would encourage you to read each session again in the days prior to presenting it.
Sessions are designed for about 50 minutes. This includes:
- One minute for the opening prayer
- Ten minutes for an opening reflection
- Four minutes for a scripture reading followed by silent meditation, then a focus statement
- Twenty to thirty minutes for an activity
- Five minutes discuss ways to apply the day’s lesson in the coming week followed by a closing prayer
- Each week also includes a table grace which is a short, easy to memorize prayer that families can share before meals each day of the week following class. This encourages families to pray and eat together.
In terms of intangible preparation, here are a few suggestions:
- As you prepare to present the curriculum, pray for discernment and guidance.
- Clarify your goals: Is there one specific outcome you are aiming for? Do you simply want to begin the discussion, or are you hoping for specific action?
- Take time to sort through your own feelings, opinions, level of knowledge about each issue. These can be complex and multilayered issues. You are not expected to be an expert on the topic. What aspects do you need to read up on? Decide whether you intend to remain neutral or if you intend to make your opinions clear, but in a way that does not dismiss the feelings/opinions of others.
- Be prepared with intelligent and articulate resources. Encourage your congregants to use only reliable, well-respected sources of information. Additional resources are listed at the end of each week’s session.
The lessons for each week are aligned vertically, so every age group is learning about the same theme, but the specific activities and topics are different based on developmental abilities. One goal of this curriculum is to encourage families and congregations to talk beyond age boundaries.
By exploring the same topic from different angles, participants of different ages can get a fuller grasp of the ussue by sharing with one another. Since the topic of food is so complex, everyone will learn more about the week’s theme through dialogue.
Ideally, this program will have long-term implications for congregations and for individuals, both in small steps taken and larger changes implemented.
Each section includes additional resources and information on what is covered in that lesson. If the participants are interested, encourage them to follow up with these resources. Some of the ideas in this program may inspire long-term projects for your church. Perhaps you and your participants will want to pursue a course of study which focuses on one particular topic discussed in a lesson. Alternatively, you may want to start a community garden or try gleaning. There are additional resources for information and for action on the Council’s website.
Adapting the Curriculum
For longer meeting times or with older age groups, consider lengthening the activity or discussion times.
Focus on the strengths of your group. For example, if your youth group is mature, consider using an occasional activity from the adult level. If you are working with a group of mixed ages, use activities for the younger ages and ask the older group members to help facilitate the activity.
Please also fill out the assessment available online and at the end of the curriculum. Your feedback is invaluable to us as we work to improve and expand this resource.
Special thanks to all the North Carolina Council of Churches staff and interns who worked on this project, including Rose Gurkin, David LaMotte, George Reed, Kathy Shea and Willona Stallings. Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate with the Council, provided the layout and design. Cover photo of farmworker woman by Peter Eversoll.
Written and edited by:
- Leslie Forrest, North Carolina State University Social Work Intern
- Lisa Talbott, Duke Divinity School Intern
- Matt Hoehn, Duke Divinity School Intern
- Lauren Chesson, Content Editor
- Aleta Payne, Deputy Executive Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches
First edition published: Eastertide, 2012
Updated: Epiphany, 2013
Updated: Summer, 2014