gleaning

This past Saturday, Dave and I scored a trunk-full of free vegetables from the farm we subscribed to! Though our subscription is finished for the year, we took part in an ancient practice called “gleaning” basically harvesting the leftovers from the fields. As we traipsed through the thick black soil scouting for cabbage, swiss chard and carrots we enjoyed the beautiful sunny day with reuben & his buddy ashy.

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yay! tractor!

As I filled my giant blue plastic Ikea shopping bag with leaves of deep green curly kale, and waxy purple cabbage I thought about the rules given to the Israelites in Leviticus to provide for the poor in their culture. Leviticus is a portion of scripture in the Old Testament where the Lord basically lays down some laws of how the Israelites are to govern themselves, take care of society and one another and honor him as their God. There are some things in there that strike most of us as strange when we read it because it is so outside of our cultural context.  However, when I was walking the rows of vegetables I had to wonder if and how this verse from Leviticus applies to Christians today:  ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

While I do believe that scripture is the inspired word of God, I don’t take everything from scripture literally. Just like everything, it must be understood in context & how it applied to the culture at the time it was written and what the implications for today are. This process of study and interpretation is called exegesis. In this case, we don’t live in an agrarian society any more- so how are the poor able to gain access to healthy food?

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this bag was filled to the brim at the end of the day- isn't the kale pretty?

In biblical times, the options were; pick the left-over grapes from the vineyard, pick the left-over wheat from the fields. The issue wasn’t whether it was healthy, it was whether people honored the Lord’s desire for the poor to be cared for and if there was enough left for them to survive on.  Today, programs like WIC have changed what they offer to low-income families shifting from lots of cheese products and white breads to a portion of the monthly allotment going towards fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads. While we often think of food as an indulgence, comfort or for heath reasons but food is also a justice issue.

While I plucked stems of broccoli from the tall leafy plants, I recalled a conversation with my friend Ashley from NYC about how the government provides subsidies for fast food restaurants in low-income neighbor hoods to attract businesses. Basically what this has done for people is put them on a fast-track for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and a slew of other health issues. Ashley also shared that because of this, people aren’t learning to cook or most likely how to shop for foods that don’t come in a box. I did a quick review of articles online to find out more about this problem & there were a few good links-

The Neglected Link Between Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity in Poor Neighborhoods

Poor Neighborhoods Lack Access to Fresh Produce

Food Apartheid- Banning Fast Food in Poor Neighborhoods

As we pulled away from the farm with our car smelling earthy from all the produce,  I was thankful that the bags and bags of fresh beets, carrots and broccoli will help ease our food budget for the next few months and help us to eat healthy. I felt like a pioneer as Dave and I processed the vegetables; peeling, blanching and freezing them to eat through the winter. We’re planning to make “stew-bags” of ready-chopped veggie mixes that we can throw in a crock-pot to cook and make soup or stew. I also felt convicted about my part of how to engage in a huge justice issue like providing healthy food to low-income families. While I have done things in the past to care for people in my neighborhood- food baskets at thanksgiving, donating to our church’s food pantry, buying from the city kids who sell the veggies they’ve grown at school at their boot-leg farmers market, I felt pressed with the need that there needs to be more done to care about this issue and get people involved.

Now that I’ve totally depressed you, I’ll leave you with this cute video of my son at the farm to cheer your spirits. enjoy!

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