I help convene a monthly discussion series at the Allentown Brew Works called Beerituality. Last week, we welcomed guests Cathy Frankenberg and Jon Geeting and wrestled with the topic of food deserts in the urban cores of the Lehigh Valley. Cathy is a founding organizer of an initiative to establish a food co-op in neighboring Bethlehem, and Jon is a political blogger/journalist with a special interest in the urban transformation happening in Allentown.
As you might imagine, we had a very good time of discussion and participation. I’ve been vexed by some of the realities we’re encountering on this issue, not the least of which being the problem of food waste in America, even in this awful economy.
Enter Jane Velez-Mitchell from CNN Headline News and a piece exploring “freeganism.” Freeganism is dumpster diving for still-edible food behind restaurants and grocery stores and cooking those salvaged items for dinner. For some reason, I’m reminded of Jesus picking wheat on the Sabbath as he walked through a field he didn’t own. I’m also reminded of the practice we see in the book of Ruth, when grain that fell to the ground during harvest was left for the scavenging needy. But at least that grain wasn’t thrown in the garbage for no good reason. At least people who needed it didn’t have to scrounge in dumpsters.
We’d like to think we’re so much more progressive on so many fronts than our ancestors, but on issues of food and shelter, our older traditions have sometimes echo the kind of sustainable ethos that comes with living close to the land and the means of production.
This has everything to do with the problem of food deserts here and now. It has everything to do with how we will respond to the needs of our community. For more commentary on the free market’s failure to bring healthful food to food deserts, read my recap of last week’s Beerituality gathering.