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Religious groups have long been on the front line of fighting hunger, but food activists say it's time for faith communities to think beyond food

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UW Event Explores Religion and Food Politics

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Religious groups have long been on the front line of fighting hunger, but food activists say it's time for faith communities to think beyond food banks and soup kitchens.

"Hunger, in a sense, is dealing with the very immediate end, and yet it doesn't get at all of the systemic issues," says Noam Pianko, chair of University of Washington's Jewish Studies program. "Helping those in need is different than taking a step back and saying 'what do we do and what do we eat that makes hunger possible?'"

The Jewish Studies program this Thursday is hosting a conversation about religion, food and public policy. Pianko says the discussion will tackle "the question of what it means to build sustainable food systems" from a religious perspective, stressing the principles of interconnectedness, humility and self-awareness that are central to many faith traditions.

"It's about the importance of recognizing our actions have ramifications," Pianko says.

The event, the third in a four-part series devoted to Judaism and social justice, will feature a pair of speakers who Pianko says were selected to represent the passion and theories which support synagogue CSAs and sustainable Shabbat dinners. University of Washington professor Karen Litfin, who's spent time in ecovillages around the world, considers herself an academic, while Nigel Savage, founder and executive director of Hazon, identifies as an activist.

An enthusiastic cyclist, Savage created Hazon to explore the relationship between Judaism and the natural world. At its annual food conference, Hazon urges attendees to think about the contemporary relevance of food blessings; dietary codes and ancient gleaning practices.

"Religious communities are sometimes perceived as not being interested in sustainability," Pianko says. "But the choices we make can make systemic change."

Tomorrow night's event is free and open to the public, but participants are asked to pre-register here.

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