From 2005-2007, ALEPH served as the lead agency in a successful interfaith project to incorporate religious and ethical principles in the ways in which we produce and distribute food. Under generous grants from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and The Schocken Foundation, the project brought together religious leaders, faith-based and civic institutions and members of the food industry to improve the quality of our land, air and water, to provide healthier and more sustainable food for our citizens and to improve the lives of agricultural workers.
Launched in July, 2005, the project was housed in ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and worked in partnership with Faith in Place, The Food Alliance, the Islamic Society of North America, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the National Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and The Shalom Center as well as other faith-based institutions, businesses andnonprofit organizations.
Faith, Food and Our Future
Producing and distributing food is the most central activity to our economy and environment, both domestic and international. More than 1.3 billion people work 28 percent of the earth’s land to grow food. In the United States, nearly a quarter of all workers are engaged in the food industry, with food production affecting the local economy as well as the health of its residents, water and soil. Incremental improvements in the way in which food is grown, processed and marketed can have profound benefits for the environment and human health.
The tens of millions of people who purchase food for their homes and families have considerable ability to effect positive change in the environmental practices of corporations. Those who influence consumer choices are a particularly powerful leverage point. Religious guidance has
proven historically successful in affecting food choices on a mass scale. For centuries religious leaders have given advice on what foods truly represent a sacred path. This advice includes the Roman Catholic tradition of eating fish on Fridays, the halal dietary restrictions of Islam, and the Jewish kosher laws and eating matzah instead of bread during the Passover holiday.
The results of the Sacred Foods Project are resources that help religious leaders to address contemporary concerns about health, society and sustainability that are also a growing focus in the business community.
Sacred Food Goals and Accomplishments
- Improving the purchasing practices of communities of faith through their institutions including hospitals, schools, universities, meal programs, senior and day care facilities.
- Working to incorporate new social, environmental, health and community values into the advice religious leaders give and the certification standards they endorse.
- Hosting an interfaith dialogue to create common understanding about what is truly sacred food.
- Involving food business, faith-based and civic organizations and religious leaders in creating practical steps for improving the ways in which our country chooses to feed itself.
- Educating religious leaders on the social and environmental dimensions of our food system.
- Creating a compendium of scientific research, religious law, practice and the theological underpinnings of holding food as sacred.