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Center for a Livable Future


Guiding Principles

Baltimore food and faith project

Whether through Christianity's Holy Communion, Judaism's Passover Seder, the Muslim Iftar meal, or the sharing of sweets during Hinduism's Diwali, the world's religions all recognize eating as an occasion to offer thanks and to celebrate. In the past century, however, food production has also gone hand in hand with environmental degradation, and food insecurity still exists. Now more than ever, eating is a moral act and we must consider the implications of the way we, as a society, produce and distribute food.

Faith communities and organizations from all faith traditions have a long history of seeking to improve the human social condition, and they are increasingly folding environmental stewardship into existing social justice frameworks to consider the problems associated with our current food system. In 2005, the national interfaith Sacred Foods Project identified eight dimensions for the guidance of our food and farm system choices according to Abrahamic traditions, and these principles provide a good summary of the reasons why it is important for faith communities to speak up and act on these issues.

Sacred Food Project's Eight Dimensions

Preface: The web of life.
We celebrate God's creation of a self-sustaining web of life in which plants, animals, land, water, air, and human beings are interwoven. There are many relationships in this web that can heal or damage the web itself. Among these, food production is one of the more significant forces. So we must choose ways of producing food that protect and heal the web of life.

Dimension 1. Growing food in ways that protect and heal the web of life
Food production, as one of the more significant forces in the natural world, affects the delicate balance of plants, animals, human beings, land, water and air - interdependent in seeking sustenance and survival. Farming and grazing together occupy one quarter of the world's lands and are the leading cause of deforestation and loss of natural lands. In order to maintain this balance for future generations, we human beings must choose to produce our food in ways that protect the web of life, preserve the living spaces that other life-forms need, and learn to use methods that return vibrant health to our soil and water.

Dimension 2. Treatment of animals
All our traditions agree that animals must be treated humanely and their suffering minimized.

Dimension 3. Protecting the integrity and diversity of life
The ways in which we produce food must respect the integrity and diversity of the world's plants and animals, as well as taking active steps to prevent the extinction of animal species and plant varieties which produce seeds which can be saved.

Dimension 4. No one should go hungry
All our traditions share a strong commitment that no one should go hungry at the end of the day. This applies especially to the poor and times of famine. Everyone should have access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally customary food. Each local community and the world-wide human community acting in concert share the responsibility for ending hunger and famine.

Dimension 5. Fairness toward and empowerment of workers
All our traditions agree that workers must be treated fairly, justly and humanely. One out of every six people works to provide the food we eat - in the fields and in food transport, in restaurants and food preparation, and in food stores. We affirm their right to decent incomes, working conditions, and to organize themselves.

Dimension 6: Responsible and ethical forms of business
All our traditions require that we act honestly, fairly, to the benefit of others, and in accordance with the ethical teachings of our faith traditions when dealing with customers, employees, partners, and the communities in which we conduct business. These relationships must be accessible to public scrutiny and accountability.

Dimension 7. Food as an aspect of spirituality
All our traditions affirm that food is an element in spiritual celebration and experience. Whenever we eat, we consciously affirm that eating is a sacred spiritual practice which celebrates the delicate interplay of plants, animals and people, land, air, and water that makes this possible and we commit ourselves again to maintaining this creation.

Dimension 8. Reflection on our actions and impact
The rhythm of Action and Reflection, renewed Action and renewed Reflection, is encouraged in our traditions in such forms as Sabbaths, Ramadan, and Lent, as well as other holidays when we refrain from our daily work and reflect on our roles in the web of life. Meaningful observance of these occasions can be expanded to include reflection on and assessment of the impact of human activity on the integrity of the web of life.

Religious institutions are well poised to help their faith communities address some of the food system problems and to help bring about positive change. Ultimately, these activities will contribute to creating a healthy, safe, and just food system that allows us to produce what is needed now and for future generations in a way that protects people, animals, air, land, and water.

Read more about these 8 principles from Brother David Andrews in his keynote address at the 2013 Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference, "A Place at God's Table: Food Policy for a Healthy World"