Individuals and Families Take Action on Ethical Eating
Individual resources for impacting change through buying, selling, raising and consuming food varies. Even the smallest effort can serve as an educational and awareness tool to impact others' views and behaviors. In addition, each act is a positive direction for preserving life on this planet so that our ecological and human communities may flourish. We invite you then to consider these aspirations as you choose which actions you investigate and enact.
Buying, Selling, Raising and Consuming Food
- Eat low on the food chain. The environmental cost to produce a plant-based diet is dramatically lower than that of a meat-based diet. Many cookbooks offer easy-to-make, inexpensive and tasty recipes to help us reduce our intake of animal-based foods. You may also find recipes online.
- Use reusable bags. Save resources. Many stores will give a discount to customers who bring their own canvas or other reusable bags to carry groceries.
- Buy in bulk. Cut down on cost and packaging. Even some supermarkets offer bulk products, although this might require asking a staff person or manager.
- Join a buying club or food cooperative in your area. These organizations offer whole foods, food in bulk, and minimally packaged food grown organically or sustainably. Congregations as well as individuals can join to purchase earth-friendly food, cleaning products and other supplies.
- Ask the grocery store where you shop to display the origin of its produce. Urge them to indicate pesticides, sprays, waxes, etc.
- As food sellers and producers to label where their products come from to determine distance of transport and whether the products were irradiated or contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
- Ask food sellers to require that their suppliers certify the humane treatment of animals.
- Purchase fair trade-certified products as available. To get started on learning about fair trade foods, or to find where you can purchase some, visit A Fair Trade Hub.
- Share your favorite recipes with others.
- Protect and encourage organic food production and its producers. You can do this by joining a cooperative in your area or visiting an organic farm. To find one near you, visit LocalHarvest. Organic food includes crops grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers or sewage sludge, and animals reared without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Shop at local farmers markets. To find one near you, visit the USDA's list of farmers markets.
- Plant your own garden and share the harvest with others or homeless shelters.
- Before a meal, make a habit of naming the food ingredients, suggesting where they originated, and give thanks to all that went into bringing the food to your table (see Table Graces).
Advocacy and Public Witness
- Write an article or an ongoing “Food Feature” for your congregation’s newsletter or local newspaper telling people about the discoveries you made throughout the study process.
- Support legislation that requires the labeling of products that are irradiated or contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), distribution of adequate ethical food supplies, effective safety inspection of food production, and realignment of agricultural subsidies to support growing more produce and the viability of small farmers.
- Take friends, families, and school groups on visits to organic farms and explain to them what you know of sustainable, healthy, and humane food.
Citizens and Communities
Our effectiveness and power to change magnifies when individuals choose to impact their communities, especially when they team up with other individuals and organizations. You can do this through advocacy, public witness, and creating and contributing to community programs. Following are a number of suggestions for individual and group citizen actions.
Advocacy. Once your beliefs about ethical eating are strongly grounded in empirical data, our common faith, and your ethical commitments, consider advocating those beliefs to elected officials through visits, letters, and phone calls. Clearly articulate the religious and moral dimensions of your position. The Unitarian Universalist Assocation's Advocacy and Witness team produced an excellent handbook for congregational advocacy, called Inspired Faith, Effective Action (PDF).
Public Witness: Media. Host a press-worthy event that proclaims and embodies your discoveries about ethical eating. Remember that the media is most interested in stories with one or more of the “Four C’s”: Controversy, Conflict, Contradiction, or Colorful Language/Characters. Be sure to address the religious and moral dimensions of the issue you are addressing, and explain how your event arises from values you have in common with the audience to whom you are speaking.
Public Witness: Community Life. Organize participation in a community fair, parade, or demonstration. Use signs declaring your moral position on the issue and the name of your group. Make it fun!
- Organize the congregation to support of community food pantries, Meals on Wheels programs, and similar projects that address the problem of hunger or other issues of ethical eating.
- Donate space and find other ways to support labor unions, farmers’ cooperatives, “fair trade” associations, and other organizations that help the farmers and other workers who produce and distribute food in the global market.
- Organize programs based on all you have learned. Combine education, worship, and action for people of all ages. Take it on the road to citizen's groups, community groups, and congregations in the area.
- Form an ongoing task force to work on the issue. Establish an ongoing relationship between your congregation and a community organization that promotes ethical eating. It might be another congregation, a cultural organization, an advocacy or dining group dedicated to a certain issue, or an interfaith organization and/or coalition. Choose a group with whom you can maintain an ongoing and meaningful exchange.
- Organize fair trade coffee, tea and cocoa for social gatherings you participate in. Work with the relevant parties to switch to Fair Trade. Then sell Fair Trade chocolate and other products as an ongoing fundraiser for social justice efforts. For more information check out: EqualExchange.com/interfaith, which includes a link to Coffee Projects of various national religious groups. Also see DivineChocolate.com.
- Launch an eating disorders support group using the resources of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), in consultation with a professional in your community who works with people suffering from eating disorders. Research shows that eating disorders disproportionally affect young women and racial and ethnic minorities, and affect 5-10 million US Americans from all ethnic groups.
- Become a pick-up site for a local Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm(s). A CSA is a way for the food-buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. If you are part of a volunteer organization with a physical site, offering that location as a CSA pickup site will increase your member participation in food justice work, and expose community members to your group. Find CSAs in your area by plugging your zip code into LocalHarvest.org/csa.
- Create a community garden on your own property, or that of a volunteer organization you participate in. Research area community gardens and invite an “expert” to inform your group and get you started. Involve the children. Consider cooperating with neighbors, crossing boundaries that separate people in order to do so. Donate a portion of your produce to food assistance programs. Use the site to host a harvest festival, or a dinner as a fundraiser.
- Plan potlucks and holiday meals around the theme of sustainable food, or on one of the many other themes of this website. Measure your waste after the meal with the goal of reducing it next time.
- Help organizations you work with develop a policy for what to do after food events: Donate the best; compost the rest. Most local soup kitchens and food pantries are happy to accept food that other organizations don’t use, so develop a regular donation plan. Many organizations produce enough coffee grounds to develop respectable compost piles. There are many resources available to help create a healthy and productive compost pile. Teach others how to compost at home.