The majority of society has become blissfully unaware of where their food is coming from. There are several possibilities as to where this ignorance comes from. One prominent reason is that people are in a hurry. Most people are so wrapped up in their day to day business that eating often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Wendell Berry is an environmental activist, a writer, and a farmer who asks important questions that urge people to deeply consider the agricultural process that we are all inevitably a part of. Berry suggests that eating should be given priority as it is an agricultural and religious act that reconnects people to the soil they came from. There are many suggestions that he gives as to how people can claim a knowledgeable position in the agricultural process.
Society needs to slow down and at least attempt to find the pleasure in eating. We hurry through meals so that we can get to work or go do something more fun. We sometimes skip meals because we are simply unable to fit it into our schedule. Imagine, being so busy that you cannot even partake in the act that makes it possible for you to function. This is impossible. There will always be a moment when you have to take the time to eat. Berry urges us to truly dedicate ourselves to that time; to find pleasure in it. The majority of consumers are passive and think of food only as a product.
Berry describes industrial eaters as people who do not realize the connection between the land and food. Corporations that encourage this type of industrial eating have persuaded society to desire food that is already prepared. This takes away any possibility of knowing where that food came from. Society has become stagnant to the point where food is cooked, delivered, and prepared for them. People are not required to spend any valuable time eating because industrialism has made it possible to ignore the entire process. We eat and then we go about our day without considering any aspect of the history of our food. Then, after we eat, we continue on with our lives, until we feel hungry again. This tragic monotony is pulling us further and further away from our source of life. Berry, along with other authors and followers of his work, encourages society to re-evaluate dependency and recognize that it is inescapable.
Consumers are passive, ignorant, and incredibly dependent. A measure of our dependence could be conceptualized by imagining a situation wherein food products disappear from grocery store shelves. Can you imagine the horror? People would undoubtedly starve. Society has been groomed to be lazy. We put forth little to no effort to prepare our food, let alone produce it ourselves. Berry recognizes that we are dependent on the soil, as did Sutterfield in his book Cultivating Reality. Society tries to ignore this dependency and put lives in the hands of large corporations.
Berry suggests that we start small. It is not realistic to suggest or expect everyone to go out tomorrow and plant a huge garden with a wide variety of plants. It is not realistic to suggest we all go out and buy our own cow, a few chickens, and a goat. Berry suggests that we can improve little by little. There are many different places to start. For example, grow something (just one plant would be great) that will produce food. Whether it be in a small garden or in a window. This act would allow people to become a part of the process. Growing something themselves would allow them to know for sure where that food came from. This would also allow people to be enlightened by the cycle: from seed to flower, flower to fruit, fruit to plate. The ability to know and observe all of the plant’s life will allow people to appreciate the process.
Another suggestion is to prepare one’s own food. The eater must also become the preparer. This act allows one to not only eat more cheaply, but to also gain more knowledge as to what is being put in or with their food. When shopping at a grocery store, the chances of buying a product with additives are surprisingly high. Examples of food additives are: colorings, preservatives, emulsifiers and flavor enhancers. Food additives are considered unhealthy and unnatural. Processed foods are undoubtedly risky to consume. A vast majority of the food consumed daily is processed. Food can be mechanically processed or chemically processed. Chemically processed foods are typically what one thinks of when they hear that a food is processed. Processed foods are usually loaded with added sugars. Often times, not even real sugars are added. Rather, high fructose corn syrup often finds its way into meals. It would be impossible for me to visit all of the adverse effects of too much sugar on our bodies. Consumers should be aware that large amounts of sugars are very unhealthy and have a negative impact on overall health. They should also be aware that the majority of added sugars and high fructose corn syrup comes from processed food.
Corporations that are responsible for providing these consumers with food are taking advantage of their natural instincts. These processed foods are modified so that the more you eat, the more you crave. Massive amounts of money is spent in order to make foods rewarding to the consumer. Businesses are in competition with one another. Each one trying to get the eater to return thoughtlessly to their store and eat more garbage. Our brains were designed to regulate our energy balance. They were designed to regulate our food consumption. Designed to let us know when enough is enough. Until recently, this natural design allowed humans to maintain a relatively healthy weight. People have begun to allow themselves to be controlled by the industry. Berry suggests that we should reclaim this responsibility. I am not suggesting that having this responsibility would or will be easy. I do believe that it is possible. Berry’s suggestions for eating responsibly would also allow consumers to regain some control of their lives.
Biologically, the act of eating is considered homeostatic. That is, it is an act that provides the necessary energy to sustain life. Non homeostatic eating is an act that is carried out for other reasons, such as: for reward, fellowship, etc. Non homeostatic eating often results in overconsumption. Health issues arise when consumers begin to give in to the reward they feel from eating. High fat-sucrose diets (HFS), may be called the diet of the Western world, are detrimental to many aspects of overall health. For example, HFS diets impair cognition and can contribute to neurodegenerative disease.
In order to regain health, society must return to homeostatic consumption. Partaking in fellowship is an important Christian practice that should not be overlooked. However, Christians should take a step back and reflect on what they are doing to their bodies when they attend the Church’s potluck and have large plates of food and multiple pieces of store-bought, packaged goods. In addition to the adverse effects of binge eating on our body, we probably do not know where most of the food really came from. Merriam Webster defines fellowship as: community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience. Fellowship means to be a part of a group. In church, we tend to view fellowship as the casual conversations that happen to occur in the fellowship hall. Typically, these conversations are based around food. The purpose of fellowship is to gather. Fellowship in the Bible is focused on the presence of God and how we can make other’s lives better. Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Romans 1:12, “That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
Wendell Berry suggests that Christianity should acknowledge and adopt agrarian practices in order to strengthen the relationship with God. These agrarian practices would be much easier to handle and accept if Christians gathered together and faced the problem in fellowship. Churches should attempt to rebuild their ideas around fellowship. It is shocking to think that Christians gather in an attempt to be closer to God, but often end up gathering in gluttony. For many things in this life, it is easier to succeed and feel fulfilled if we are surrounded and supported by others. In his piece Gift of the Good Land, Berry states that “in losing stewardship we lose fellowship; we become outcasts from the great neighborhood of Creation.” Berry also states that we have exiled ourselves from Creation and become allies with the principle of destruction.
He contributes said loss of stewardship to the loss of skill. Perhaps the loss of skill stems from a lack of knowledge. A lack of knowledge that so frustrates us we spend every waking moment trying to gain more. “If we want to know and cannot help knowing, then let us learn as fully and accurately as we decently can” (The Art of the Commonplace, pg. 182).
Social Awareness and Food Insecurity. (2022, Sep 09).
Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from
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