Faith In Action: A Taste Of Ethics
Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Two packages of ice cream (or other foods) of the same flavor - one organic and the other not
- Serving spoons
- Small bowls and spoons for sampling the ice cream
- Napkins and cleanup supplies
- Newsprint, markers and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Determine whether anybody in your group has a dairy allergy or extreme lactose intolerance (your director of religious education may have a record of allergies made at the time of youth registration); if so, choose a different food. Nut allergies are also common, so do not choose a food made with nuts or nut oils.
- Prepare two samples of ice cream for each participant, being sure you know, but youth do not, which samples are organic and which are not.
- Consider reading for your own background information an article about ethical eating in the spring 2007 issue of UU World (see Find Out More).
Description of Activity
Invite your youth to "have a taste of ethics" and then to discuss the ethics of eating.
Distribute to each participant two samples of ice cream in the same flavor. Without explaining in advance, use organic ice cream for one and non-organic ice cream for the other. Mark the dishes in some way that tells you which is which. You might tape numbers to the bottom of each dish, using 1 for organic and 2 for non-organic.
Ask the group to decide which sample tastes more virtuous than the other. If you get puzzled looks, explain that some people say some foods are produced using no chemicals while others are made with extra chemicals that may harm the environment and us. Some people would say that one of these ice creams is ethically better. "Which one is it? Can you taste the difference?" Record youth responses on newsprint, keeping count of how many chose which ice cream.
Explain that one sample is organic and one is not. Identify which is which.
Then ask whether choosing organic foods is an act of virtue because those foods are all natural, without artificial substances. Without trying to answer the question by consensus, enlarge the question to ask about the ethics of eating in general. Are some foods more ethically correct than others? Why or why not? Can we eat in ways that express our "Faith in Action"?
Say that good people disagree about the ethics of eating. Some people feel strongly about organic foods and/or about banning meat from their diets. Other people say that not everyone has the financial resources to buy organic food. Point out that our position in the food chain dictates that we must kill something-whether animal or plant-to eat or we will die. Unitarian Universalist congregations have members and friends with many different beliefs about food.
Ask youth if they can name certain dietary restrictions set by religions. They might name:
- Restrictions on pork (Islam and other religions)
- Eating fish (or no meat) on Friday (Catholicism)
- Vegetarianism (practiced by many Buddhists and Hindus)
- Eating kosher (according to Jewish dietary laws) or halal (according to Islamic dietary laws)
- Restrictions on alcohol (Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and other religions)
- Fasting (many religions)
What we sometimes do not acknowledge is that many of these laws were established because of concerns about health and safety.
Invite the group to brainstorm some considerations that come into play when making decisions about the food we eat. The list should include:
- Religion and spirituality
- Personal taste
- Ethnicity and culture
- Location (you need to have access to food) and the culture of the region
- Nutritional needs (for example, a pregnant woman might need additional calcium)
- The needs and desires of the entire family or group that is eating
Tell your youth that you are not telling them how to eat, nor are you asking them to change their eating habits. (These points are important. Parents may not be pleased to have youth coming home and demanding immediate changes in the family diet.) However, you do hope they will think about the choices they make. As the brainstorm list demonstrates, there are many factors to take into account when making dietary decisions.
As Unitarian Universalists, we believe everyone has to make these decisions for themselves. Our religion does not have dietary restrictions. Your congregation, though, might have a "food culture" with implicit guidelines around what is acceptable and what is not. If so, include a conversation about what dishes you generally find at potlucks or what snacks you get in the religious education program. Do your congregation's eating habits reflect any Faith in Action?