Every November, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are grateful for food, the ability to feed our own families, and the need to ensure our entire human family has enough to eat.
Our holiday table reminds us of many other important tables: tables where families comes together to share a special meal; tables where our nation’s decision makers negotiate trade, aid, and public policies that affect us all; and, the most sacred of tables—the altar where the church gathers to be nourished by communion. Let us enter this month remembering that each table calls us to act with faith and hope.
November is the anniversary month of the pastoral letter “For I Was Hungry & You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers and Farmworkers,” first issued in 2003. The letter seeks to highlight the issues of food and agriculture and their connection to our faith. The letter states, “We focus on how food and fiber are produced, how land is protected and how agriculture is structured, compensated, and regulated to serve the ‘common good.’”
The purpose of the bishop’s letter was to address the concern that food and agriculture are “little seen and less understood” by a post-industrial society living increasingly technological lives. It is true we are further removed from food and agriculture than ever before. Yet what we eat, who grows and harvests that food, and the state of the earth that produces these goods are the very things we need to consider as Christian disciples. It’s a valuable consideration this harvest month, and every month. More than a decade since it was first published, the bishop’s pastoral letter still serves as a poignant reminder that food and agriculture must be viewed from a deeply faith perspective.
November is also Native America Heritage month. Native Americans were once the most agriculturally prosperous group of people in the United States. Yet a snapshot of hunger and poverty today on reservations is nothing short of a banquet of scarcity. Sixty percent of the counties with majority Native Americans face dangerously high food insecurity rates, according to Feeding America. These statistics are a sobering reminder that many marginalized brothers and sisters are missing from our tables of plenty.
A broader overview of the state of hunger in our country reveals that 48 million Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table, and that 1 in 5 kids live at risk of hunger.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving won’t be a feast for everyone.
The bishop’s pastoral letter addresses the complexities of our food system but it is also a profoundly hopeful document. “We know these are not easy times, but as believers we have hope for the days ahead: We have the capacity to overcome hunger in our nation and around the world,” the letter said.
Through Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters campaigns, churches across the country advocate to end hunger by putting food and agriculture into focus. These annual policy advocacy campaigns remind us that God intended for all to be fed.
This Thanksgiving, let us remember that ending hunger in our lifetime will only be a reality if we act with faith and hope at all the sacred tables in our lives.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy is the Senior Associate for National Catholic Engagement at Bread for the World.
Read about how parishes in the Archdiocese of New York are together advocating to end child hunger. You can hear more about this creative effort by participating in our live event on Dec. 20 at 2 p.m., which will feature this and other stories of acting together as communities of salt and light.