Baltimore Food & Faith Project

by John Shields

Preaching Food & Faith - To More Than The Choir

Us "locavore-try-to-be" folks religiously attend endless lectures, seminars, conferences, and support restaurants that serve regional fare. Despite our sincere efforts, sometimes it feels like we’re preaching to the choir.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future decided that preaching, to more than the choir, is exactly what was needed to reach a broader audience. Since my concept of Our Common Table was inspired by early practices in monastic communities of Christendom, where food, drink, and care for one another, converge at the common table, I was honored when invited to serve on their advisory board at the launching of the Baltimore Food and Faith Project (BFFP) in 2007.

Since then the BFFP has forged creative and practical partnerships with religious organizations of all traditions. Building upon the spiritual and ethical tenants that all share, the BFFP works to create a dialog around the implications of the way our society values, produces, distributes, prepares, and consumes food. The BFFP publishes a quarterly newsletter, holds interfaith workshops, a summer film series and gives educational presentations to interested congregational groups.

That’s hardly where it ends though. The BFFP works to translate its values into real, practical actions too. Area congregations are assisted in setting up arrangements with local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms that bring wholesome and fresh food to the under-served inner city. Some CSAs, like One Straw Farm, even agree to tithe, bringing one extra share for every 10 subscribed.

Another important component to healthier eating is creating a garden. In 2009 the Baltimore Food and Faith Project helped initiate a number of gardens at churches and in parochial schools throughout the area with start-up grant monies and technical assistance. This spring BFFP hosted an open tour of Baltimore’s faith-based gardens, encouraging other faith communities to think about starting a garden of their own.

Many of us remember our parents or grandparents hauling out their time worn canning pots and pressure cookers to “put up” foods for the coming winter. Unfortunately, canning is a skill that in recent times has been relegated to the place of the rotary phone! But when people begin to grow their own food the next logical step is preserving—and out come the pots. BFFP has held three food-preserving classes so far, and all have been filled to capacity.

The Baltimore Food and Faith Project continues to grow by reaching out to people of all backgrounds. Young and old join in and it’s a beautiful thing to see the generations reconnect with each other and keep traditional food ways alive. All these efforts help to animate the local food economy and to restore the very health of our people. It makes the Locavore Movement not just a concept, but a day-to-day reality.


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