Do you ever remember being hungry? In grade school perhaps? Di you learn to tell time just so you could see how long it was to lunch? Were you ever on a long journey by foot or car or bus or plane and you couldn’t eat until you go there? Di you have to skip breakfast in your family? Did you ever go for a day or more without eating? What does being hungry mean to you? What does it feel like to eat after not eating? It’s different, isn’t it, to eat a regular meal at the appropriate time versus having to wait to eat until you are hungry? Which feels like a real feeding? Which makes you appreciate food? Which is an experience of abundance? Many of us take so much for granted. Eating before you get hungry might mean food becomes a habit taken for granted. Do we have to be hungry to appreciate food?
That crowd that came out for Jesus was caught unaware in the countryside. They were on the far side of the sea of Galilee, way out of sight of grocery stores or even a farm stand. The disciples were certainly worried. What if that little boy hadn’t brought his lunch?
Being hungry and not knowing when or where your next meal will appear is something that close to a billion people worldwide experience every day. In the United States as of 2016, 41.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households. The United States Department of Agriculture has a definition for food insecurity. It’s when a household does not have regular access to food for all its members. Of those 41 million Americans, almost 13 million are children. It is obvious to any of us that one way to show our love for our neighbors and children is to feed them, and many of our churches do.
In Bath, Maine, for example, on Tuesday nights the Neighborhood Cafe, run by the Neighborhood UCC, feeds everyone who comes by. In Bath, you know you can get a hot meal and good company on Tuesdays. There are UCC churches that feed people breakfasts from their church kitchens, bring meals to shelters, stock food pantries and more. We are a feeding people. Food is a justice issue and a faith issue.
If you want to think deeply about these things you might look at a resource the UCC has prepared for churches. It’s called “Just Eating.” We take food for granted. This is a curriculum that is designed to help us pay attention to food and how we impact the world with our eating choices. It is a resource that speaks to faith issues and the kitchen. You can find it on ucc.org by searching for “Just Eating.”