Easter, Passover and spring are here, and this year Earth Day coincides with this season of reflection, rebirth, renewal and faith. With trees abloom and flowers exploding, it is hard to ignore the miracle and blessings of the natural world. It draws my mind to this simple prayer from St. Francis exalting in our kinship to the earth that sustains us:
“Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my Lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned…”
I am drawn to this simple saint who lived and preached peace, simplicity and connection to the natural world. His message resonates with me in search for what is meaningful in our complex, modern world.
In my role at Andrews House, this complex world manifests itself in the form of food insecurity. That is, people who need food.
Locally, I see this need increasing as prices of food and inflation rises. I see people suffering health problems due to increased poverty and limited access to affordable healthy food. We have seen during this pandemic and now during a horrific war, how very closely our economies and food supplies depend on each other. What happens in the fields and cities of Ukraine, affects what is (or is not) on our plates in Ohio.
Sadly, we have constructed a world in which we have become so far removed from our food source that we have lost the sense of what we need to support us and how to do it. We have constructed a world with food systems that are not supporting the basic nutritional needs of all people. It is complicated, yes. However, food justice movements in America and worldwide are challenging the way our food is produced and distributed.
Locally, there are movements and collaborations addressing this issue. Over the last 10 years, I have seen a huge systemic shift in the harnessing of mass quantities of perishable food that was previously tossed into the landfill. Mid-Ohio Food Collective (formerly Mid-Ohio Foodbank) made an incredible commitment and investment to do this. For over 10 years, their warehouse has filtered many hundreds of thousands of tons of fresh food from stores, distributors, and producers into the hands of food-insecure people across Ohio, including Delaware County. This is achieved with the help of local community partners, like Andrews House, in the form of Mobile or Pop-Up free markets. This remarkably simple idea was revolutionary. Now it is common practice in our food system in America.
Additionally, 10 years ago in Delaware County, Mid-Ohio Food Collective brought together pantries, churches and organizations, like Andrews House, to discuss issues and address gaps in services. Since then, these single entities, with the help of United Way, have worked together in a strong collaborative effort called the Delaware County Hunger Alliance. Our Hunger Alliance partners implement creative solutions to address food insecurity in our county through innovative programs such as Produce RX, SNAP Farmers’ Market, Cooking Matters (cooking classes sharing techniques and strategies to cook healthy meals on a budget) and community gardens. Local farmers and producers help in this effort as well by donating fresh, healthy food to our community.
These local efforts to connect people through healthy food give hope, bring us closer to each other and to our food source, the earth.
There is much work still to be done, but during this reflective season, St Francis challenges us to discover more ways to connect to the earth and to each other.
Mel Corroto is not a pastor, but she works with many pastors and church communities in her role as director of Andrews House in Delaware.