Politics of Eating
Sermon originally delivered at the Jack Crum Conference at Highlands United Methodist Church in Raleigh on… Continue Reading
I’ll never forget how it felt to serve dinner to this group. About 30 hungry, tired farmworkers arrived back at their camp just as it was getting dark, and they were kind enough to welcome us into their humble space for a shared meal. This group of mostly young men had been busy harvesting sweet potatoes down East. Most were indigenous Mexicans who learned Spanish as a second language, who didn’t know any English.
As we spooned out rice and beans and poured soda from two-liter bottles, I was struck at how rare it is for any of us to meet the people who actually produce and harvest the food we eat. From our history of slavery to our modern industrial context, our society has not really reckoned with the grim reality of those at the bottom of our food chain.
I will be leaving the NC Council of Churches at the end of March to focus full-time on Tomatillo Design, my new communications shop that works with nonprofits to create amazing, affordable websites.
Since I began working at the Council as an intern in the summer of 2006, I’ve had the incredible privilege of working with the most dedicated, talented and likable group of coworkers imaginable. From its founding more than 75 years ago to today, the Council has worked on a wide range of progressive causes and I’m proud to be a small part of that legacy. Every day at the office I felt encouraged by the witness of recent saints like Sister Evelyn Mattern and Collins Kilburn.
As you’ll see in the news clip and discussion above, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is about to implement major changes to how chickens are processed. These changes will harm workers and consumers alike.
The USDA plans to implement a new rule to increase production speed and eliminate 75% of USDA inspectors in poultry processing factories. Companies will police themselves. During the comment period last year, the proposed rule was savaged by food safety experts, animal rights activists, and worker advocates. There was no credible rebuttal to their concerns. With faster production and less oversight, it’s no surprise that the pilot program found higher rates of salmonella.
Governor Pat McCrory recently issued a proclamation declaring September 15-21 to be “Farm Safety and Health Week.” Here at the NC Council of Churches, we’ve been working with rural communities and farmworkers for decades, and we are well aware of the need for safety on our state’s farms. Our friends at NC FIELD have issued a powerful press release calling attention to the need for not only words from the Governor’s mansion but for real actions by all NC agencies and growers to make farmwork safer and to close the child labor loophole that puts kids in danger.
Somewhat lost this summer amidst all the conversation about comprehensive immigration reform is a little-known bill called the “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (or “Ag Act,” HB 1773) that has already passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. This harmful bill is a thinly veiled attempt to strip farmworkers of the few rights they have on the job while propping up agribusinesses’ bottom line.
Since the end of slavery in America, no workers have been more exploited than the men and women who bend to the earth in backbreaking labor, picking fruits, vegetables, and tobacco. Despite miracles of agricultural progress and innovation over the decades, the harsh lives and working conditions of migrant laborers have changed very little. Their cause has been championed in the past by Edward Murrow, Cesar Chavez, and the United Farmworkers. But that list is incomplete without Baldemar Velásquez . Velásquez was among hundreds of thousands of children who joined their migrant parents working long hours in the fields. Inspired by that early experience, Velásquez founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in 1967.
The Fayetteville ObserverSam Thompson was looking for a sunny spot to plant tomatoes. He ended up leading an award-winning community revolution. Thompson, an elder at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, pitched the idea of a community garden to the church six years ago. What began as a creative use for otherwise empty church property was recently awarded an equipment grant by the North Carolina Council of Churches and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. “We’re using the grant funds to dig a well,” Thompson said. “Wouldn’t you know this would be the wettest June in years.”
I finally had the chance to go my first Moral Monday earlier this week. Walking around Halifax Mall with our Executive Director, George Reed, I was struck by how many people we both knew. I’m deeply proud of the involvement by clergy and faith communities in particular. So many of our members are represented not only in the crowd but also in the faces of those participating in civil disobedience and getting arrested. As we celebrate Independence Day this week, we give thanks not only for the many freedoms our country offers, but in particular for the countless faithful voices speaking up and speaking out for those who are being pushed to the margins by this General Assembly.
Winston-Salem ChronicleThe Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation has partnered with the North Carolina Council of Churches to provide grants to faith-based organizations to help them supply healthy eating alternatives to their members and underserved communities.
United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church (UMMBC) is one of 20 faith-based organizations that have received a $5,000 Healthy Eating Equipment Grant. The church will use the grant to purchase much needed equipment and supplies to support the 10 gardens that now comprise the S.G. Atkins Community Gardens at Winston-Salem State University.
Mt. Airy NewsPiney Grove Baptist Church’s food ministries recently got a boost from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC) in the form of a $5,000 healthy eating equipment grant. The effort is a partnership between BCBSNC and the North Carolina Council of Churches to provide equipment for 20 faith-based organizations to bring healthier food to their members and communities. More than $90,000 in equipment grants are being used to provide canning and cooking supplies, expand church community gardens and increase storage for fresh produce.
Senate Bill 75, a constitutional amendment setting a maximum income tax rate of 5.5%, is on the move. Click below to learn more about the bill and the potential harm it could have on individuals and local communities across North Carolina. #ncpol ncchurches.org/2018/…
North Carolina’s new state budget – now on a fast track to final enactment by the Republican-controlled General Assembly over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto – represents a miserable failure in open, accountable legislating. #ncpol #NCGA ncchurches.org/2018/…
RT @NCIPL Join us in Raleigh on June 20th with National IPL President at NC General Assembly! ncipl.org/event/fait… @interfaithpower @ncchurches @CreationCareWNC @nccleanenergy @NCConservation @selc_org @nclcv @cleanenergyorg @NCDEQ #NCGA #NCleg
Register for @nc100miles today! We're inviting congregations to have a minimum of 10 people complete this challenge to be eligible for a $1000 mini-grant! Register today and join our team here: nc100miles.org/group… #nchealth
If you live in Greensboro, consider attending this community discussion on Saturday, June 30 regarding mental illness. Hear from doctors, families, and a panel of local organizations providing mental health services. Learn more here: facebook.com/events/… #mentalhealth #NC
RT @CCE_NC Our 2018 NC Energy Poll Briefing is moments away from starting. We will be sharing our findings on voter sentiment regarding emerging energy issues in our state. Follow us here on Twitter for live updates! #ncpol #ncenergypoll pic.twitter.com/7rfE…
RT @CreationCareWNC Celebrating St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the @WataugaDemocrat Rev. Banks blessed the Williams Sun Pavillion. Thanks to writer Thomas Sherrill and photographer Josh White wataugademocrat.com/… pic.twitter.com/cwgS…
RT @CreationCareWNC “We must listen to our scientists and increase action to protect our communities. North Carolina reaffirms its commitment to working with Climate Alliance states to support the emission reduction targets of the Paris Agreement,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. @NCIPL twitter.com/greencha…
Let's @SupportFLOC in the upcoming #BoycottVUSE against Reynolds American Inc. and defend our tobacco farmworkers so that they may have a voice to negotiate better working conditions without fear of retaliation! floc.com/wordpress/b…