by Steven Jones, March, 2020.
The Episcopal Church in Delaware announced this month the formation of the task force responsible for implementing the 233rd Annual Convention’s Resolution 001: Supporting Producers of Locally Grown Food. This resolution emerged during the Season of Creation and the desire of our parish, Saints Andrew and Matthew (Wilmington), to improve the downtown fresh food environment. Fresh food access is decreasing in availability as noted by the recent closing of Fresh Grocer in Wilmington at Adams Four last fall; now the nearest supermarket is a short drive or bus-ride away. Too often, communities lacking fresh food outlets have higher than average levels of chronic diseases.
Everything we buy creates a ripple effect in our society; some more than others. Strong local and regional economies hold more of each dollar you spend in the area longer. This resolution’s objective is to strengthen challenged communities that produce food which the church can purchase a portion for their regular operations. From an environmental perspective, most small to mid-size local/regional farms use few if any synthetic inputs which we know degrade soil health and water quality, not to mention places workers’ health at-risk. Our relationship with these sustainable growers should be stronger; they are stewards of the land, reflecting our creation-care values. The more vibrant and robust their community becomes, the more our accessibility to fresh food increases. This is not a new idea. The Center for Good Food Purchasing encourages institutions, through their purchasing power, to make a difference in the quality of their institutional food and how it is ethically-sourced. Camp Arrowhead in 2018 allocated nine percent of its food expenditure to a Seaford-based wholesaler in response to the resolution. Although this did not impact local food producers directly, as hoped, it did allocate dollars to a family-run firm that delivered great service operating in a distressed community.
The mission of the Bishop’s new task force is to formalize spending that would assist these local growers via a model that works for the diocese’s affiliated institutions like Camp Arrowhead, Memorial House and St. Andrews School. Like secular institutions committed to making an environmental and social difference and want to see their communities eat better, it is inspiring to know the Episcopal Church’s Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation Committee at the 79th General Convention felt the same. If we view the gift of good land as God’s treasure, then what we purchase and eat matters. We are all responsible for doing a little supply-chain sleuthing, finding where our food comes from and who produced it, what chemicals they used or if their firm’s workers are paid fairly matters. If all our decisions boil down solely to the lowest price, not our values, what are the implications for a life as thoughtful Christians? I know not all of us can make these thoughtful decisions all the time, I don’t, but we should when possible and admit that when we don’t we may be more part of the problem than a solution. The task force is an opportunity for our diocese to be more thoughtful about its institutional purchasing. It is interesting to note that Jesus’ call to discipleship was directed at food producers, fisherman in an imperial system where change was unimaginable. We have the opportunity not only to modify our own “food ways” as a church, but to take a much needed concrete and cooperative stand alongside creation which may inspire others. This all started in our diocese and now the needed work of making it functional is underway. Thank you for your continued support.
Steven Jones is Chair of The Bishop’s Taskforce on Supporting Producers of Locally Grown Food, Province III’s Coordinator of Environmental Stewardship, member of Sts. Andrew and Matthew (Wilmington) and vice-president of Future Harvest. Please use the Contact Us form on this website to send an email to Mr. Jones.