Growing up as a first-generation American child in an immigrant family, I heard lots of idealized reminiscing about “back home”. To hear them tell it, the Caribbean was a magical unicorn-filled wonderland where everything from the food to the freedom was
To hear them tell it, the Caribbean was a magical unicorn-filled wonderland where everything from the food to the freedom was perfect. It never occurred to me to ask them why, then, did they leave it to come to Brooklyn, New York.
perfect. It never occurred to me to ask them why, then, did they leave it to come to Brooklyn, New York. Nonetheless, notions of greener grass and cleaner food lodged in my subconscious and followed me through my move to Trinidad and Tobago, my husband’s native land. Imagine my shock when I discovered how problematic food import dependency is here. At least 70% of what Trinidadians eat comes from outside of the country!
To be fair, my family left the Commonwealth of Dominica in the mid 1980’s. The country was still far behind Trinidad & Tobago in terms of its entrenchment in the global food system. Food and life was perhaps still “natural”, what we now call “organic”. Dominica was also still rather underdeveloped, so much of the land was being cultivated to a wide array of local crops to feed a very small population. Indeed, perhaps there were even unicorns and magic!
Fast forward to late December 2013, my first trip to Trinidad. I found here supermarkets very much like the ones I left in the US stocked with just as much of the pseudo-variety of wheat, corn and soy incarnations with a sad produce section. All these symptoms of heavy food import dependency left me feeling somewhat dejected. Really tho? Did it never cross anyone’s mind here that who controls the food controls the country?
Did it never cross anyone’s mind here that who controls the food controls the country?
Greenmarkets were an even bigger disappointment than the groceries. Instead of the rich panoply of diverse colors, shapes and flavors I looked forward to seeing, I found a similar uniformity to the supermarket. Vegetable vendors have all the same basic inventory. Import fruit and Chinese onions and garlic abound.
Now I started to reminisce idealistically about my New York City farmers’ markets, where I could find a beautiful selection of locally grown heirloom tomatoes, organic foods of all kinds at Whole Foods, and have fresh groceries delivered to my door.
A Wheat Boycott to Call Attention to Food Import Dependency
Not that I wasn’t subject to the Global Food Regime, but I lived in the perpetrating country. Living in the victimized country that Trinidad and Tobago is has affected me in a deep way. Consistently I consider the implications of relying so heavily on other countries for the very food we eat. This deeply concerns me. I will highlight some of these in the coming weeks.
So on Monday, 11th June, 2018 I started a one woman boycott of wheat. I chose to boycott wheat for a number of reasons. Wheat is Trinidad’s top imported food item. The US being this country’s biggest trade partner implicates that the wheat we eat comes from over-subsidized midwestern wheat fields. Those farms, with their GMO seed, heavy chemical warfare regime and degerminated finished product, flood the world with nutrient poor, poison rich product. They are unwittingly sickening the world’s people.
The other reason I chose wheat is because I knew it would be an extremely challenging thing to abstain from. Almost every meal in Trinidad calls for wheat of some kind, from pies, bakes and doubles at breakfast, roti skins and macaroni at lunch, to dumplings and bread at dinnertime and all great snacks – digestive biscuits, khurma, pholourie – you can have in between. Here is food import dependency at its best: a non-native ingredient masquerading as a native staple. And all of it is SO DELICIOUS! It’s never wise to make generalizations, but Trinidadians can cook! Honestly, I haven’t had a bad meal in this country yet.
Here is food import dependency at its best: a non-native ingredient masquerading as a native staple.
Discussing Food Import Dependency in Trinidad &Tobago: More to Come
I am looking forward to giving talks about this around this country, so this is my first act towards helping to determine solutions to this problem of food import dependency in Trinidad and Tobago.
Here’s my boycott launch video. Enjoy!
What are your thoughts? Even if you’re not from or in Trinidad, please share. The Global Food Regime affects us all one way or another!
Hungry for Change: Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question by A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi – Read my book review
Book Review: Hungry For Change – Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question by A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi,
At the moment, I’m completely convinced that God even orders my reading list for me! As a Christian Food Activist, that shouldn’t be surprising, but His wonders never cease and they never get old or boring. I found this at Nalis Sangre Grande, which is the National Library and Information Service – aka the Trinidadian Public Library, Sangre Grande Branch.
Even if you don’t yet consider yourself a change maker or a Christian Food Activist, this book will resonate with you one way or another, because, bottom line: you eat food. It will explain some things that you may have thought strange, even some things you may have come to accept as normal but still know in your heart just aren’t right.
Akram-Lodhi presents the complex global food system in a very palatable way (pun intended). He breaks it down to components that involve pretty much every stratum of the world’s society by personalizing each. He presents profiles of real human beings, largely enduring circumstances that they, like you, have come to accept as normal, but have no way of explaining in any way that makes what their going through appear to be just.
People with names and struggles and families to feed. His descriptions are skillful. I could picture each and every one in my mind, and my heart wept for them all. Indeed, my heart weeps for all of us. We are all in this system one way or another, and the system is indeed badly broken.
If You Eat, Buy This Book!
You can get Hungry for Change on Amazon.com for around US$27.00. This is definitely a volume for your library. You will reference it from time to time while the system endures. Perhaps in 5-10 years, it will be fascinating to look back on how things were after we bring the change!
Reading this book inspired me to create this video. The video is not a synopsis of the book, but it will awaken and inform you. Check it out!
What prompted me to write an article called Christian Food Activism: Yes, It’s a Thing? Well, first let’s consider this question: What is this concept, Christian Food Activism? I realized in my prayer time (thank you Holy Spirit) that this is the lovely, succinct word package that describes what Really Nourish is all about.
There was a time when I was shy about my Christianity, but the more I dug into the scriptures, the more I realized how vital it is to be unashamed of the gospel of peace (Romans 1:16) and how relevant the word of God is in the war for food sovereignty. Now the mission is clear. Have a peek at my Share the Mission page for a deeper look into this.
What Makes Christian Food Activism Unique and Necessary?
Lots of food activism is happening, and this is vital. But, as I discuss in my forthcoming book, Securing Our Birthright, Christians in general appear to be oblivious of the role they play. They personally contribute to both their own health issues and those of their families, and the global food sovereignty shift. All they need is the enlightenment through scripture to be #woke. In Hosea 4:6 Jehovah laments that His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. He specifically spoke of their lack of knowledge of His word, and often we apply this to knowledge of this world. That isn’t completely off base, but indeed, we are witnessing the destruction of the body of Christ and the world at large for lack of knowledge of His word on food as a complex sociopolitical subject on both personal and international levels.
Why Not Just Food Activism? Why the Christian Focus?
Here are some reasons why the body of Christ is so potentially powerful:
Numbers – no, not the book, the statistics. There are more than 2 billion Christians worldwide. That is more than 25% of the world’s current population. If every one of them could receive ministry in Christian Food Activism, everything would change. I believe if even 50% of Christians changed their food purchasing patterns based on biblical principles, it would reshape the entire world food economy within weeks.
Evangelism – In our faith, each and every one of us is mandated to spread the gospel of peace. This way, our numbers should continue to grow exponentially. The bigger the body of Christ, the greater we can corporally impact the world food system.
Unified Standards – We all read the same holy bible, and so we are all lead by the same scriptural truths. The goal of Really Nourish is to lay out those truths in a way that is hard to deny. More Christians get serious about involving God in this area of their lives means more security for our birthright – the food God gave us as His first love gift to mankind and the animal kingdom. That’s the goal!
The bible has a whole lot to say about all of the modern food crisis issues. Numerous scriptures, whether it’s cautionary proverbs about deception in food and over indulging, specific instructions pointing to the diet-health connection or prophecies about what is happening now, speak God’s word on this topic. The Christian community has not addressed this from that standpoint. This is the fire God has called me to ignite.
Christian Food Activism: Yes, It’s a Thing
So yes,Christian Food Activism is a thing. Now here’s a disturbing truth in two simple parts:
Everyone who eats is in the war for food sovereignty worldwide.
Depending on what food choices you make every time you eat, you are choosing which side of the cause you are on. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND.
Really Nourish will help you stand on the right side.
With more than 2 billion Christians worldwide, food sovereignty defined in a biblical context will shed some light on the lost connection between our beliefs and our day-to-day choices. Let’s begin by breaking down the term Food Sovereignty:
From Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language
1. In a general sense, whatever is eaten by animals for nourishment, and whatever supplies nutriment to plants.
2. Meat; aliment; flesh or vegetables eaten for sustaining human life; victuals; provisions; whatever is or may be eaten for nourishment.
Feed me with food convenient for me. Proverbs 30:8.
3. Whatever supplies nourishment and growth to plants, as water, carbonic acid gas, etc. Manuring substances furnish plants with food
4. Something that sustains, nourishes and augments. Flattery is the food of vanity.
Based on this definition, much of what we choose to eat today cannot be truly considered food because it does not nourish.
1. Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe.
2. Supreme; superior to all others; chief. God is the sovereign good of all who love and obey him.
1. A supreme lord or ruler; one who possesses the highest authority without control.
Some earthly princes, kings and emperors are sovereigns in their dominions.
2. A supreme magistrate; a king.
How Do We Support the Concept of Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context?
The knee jerk reaction for many Christians reading this is that God is sovereign over all, God provides, and He is to be implicitly trusted in His provision. All of that is biblically sound, but it is incomplete. By this simplistic version of doctrine, we neglect the fact that He gave us dominion in Genesis, then after the fall, restored that dominion in Christ. That dominion is over all things. He is King of kings. He is King with a capital K, but indeed, we are lower case k kings. This is the basis for the concept of our sovereignty over our food supply in this world. As kings, we are not only in charge, we carry responsibility for it as far as how God’s provision is stewarded and distributed among mankind. Let’s first take a look at some scriptures that establish our food sovereignty.
In Genesis 1:26, God created man and gave him dominion “over all the earth”.
Then, in Genesis 2:15, God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it.
After Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3:17, God says “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” This indicates that although the gardening work will be harder, we are still free to cultivate and eat of it as much as we need. Verse 18 says Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you (but nonetheless He restates) “And you shall eat the herb of the field”. The right to cultivate and eat from the land as we needed to was still ours.
Fast forward to Genesis 6 & 7, as God is giving Noah instructions on what to bring onto the ark, He instructs Noah to stock the ark with food for the humans and animals on board. It was under God’s instruction, but the actual decisions of what and how much to bring were in Noah’s hands.
Generations later, in Genesis 41, we see Joseph in Egypt laying out a plan to manage the food supply to provide for the seven years of famine predicted in Pharoah’s dream.
Certainly there are more examples like this throughout the bible, but this is enough right in the first book to lay the foundation for a biblical case for man’s sovereignty over food. While there were appointed leaders at different moments in the biblical story who made decisions that affected the rest of mankind, their decisions were always based on making sure that EVERYONE could still partake in God’s bounty even in a huge disaster scenario. None of the food decisions had anything to do with financial gain for anyone involved.
Why Is it Important to Examine Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context?
Now that you understand the position God gave you in His Kingdom, you must see your individual daily choices as a function of that role. Every food purchase you make counts. Every time you sit down to dinner, you make a statement about where you stand on this issue. Even if you have not been conscious about it, you have been participating in it on one side or the other. Either you have been unaware that you are contributing to the transfer of food sovereignty to the enemy or you have become a change agent. There is no middle ground.
Your choices at the supermarket count more than your votes at the ballot box do.
Here are the facts:
By 2011, 10 companies controlled 75% of the world’s commercial seed supply. (source: Genetic Literacy Project GMO FAQs) This list includes Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow (see definitions below). They also operate in the pharmaceutical industry, own “food” packaging companies and market GMO technology.
Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties. (a)
Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species. (a)
Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three – rice, maize and wheat – contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants. (a)(a) Source: FAO. 1999b
As you can see, in the last 100 years, we have shifted from “every tree and plant that is beautiful to look at and good for food” (Genesis 2:9) to a very limited number of nutrient sources that Big Ag can easily control, manipulate, import, export and monetize. This has been the pattern of mankind’s loss of sovereignty over our own food.
Big Ag (Agriculture), Big Food, Big Pharma (Pharmaceuticals) – Those of us born before 1980 will likely have some memories of Big Tobacco. This was the moniker given to the tobacco industry in reference to the power and influence it wielded. It was a group of large, wealthy corporations that marketed cigarettes and other tobacco products. They used their wealth in every attempt to protect their product’s image, although numerous studies were showing undeniable links between tobacco use and lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema and other diseases of the respiratory system. They marketed to children, in medical journals and at doctor’s offices. Their political lobby was extremely powerful. Eventually they lost their battle, but for years they were able to retain the right to market to children and make fallacious claims about benefits attached to tobacco use.
Today, we have a similar phenomenon. The three interlinked industries – agriculture, food production and pharmaceuticals – are using vast wealth to protect their image, although their products and their corporate practices are implicated in a multitude of problems in today’s world. The largest corporations in this group are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and BASF. They are the R.J. Reynolds Co. and Marlboros of today. These problems include but are not limited to
Loss of biodiversity (refer to the facts above)
Climate change due to emissions from the livestock industry and other unsustainable, fossil fuel-dependent practices in agriculture
The health epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle diseases (see definition below)
Deaths from properly prescribed and administered pharmaceutical drugs (these deaths surpass those from heart disease)
Soil depletion due to heavy use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, largely exacerbated by the unbridled release of GMO seed into the market
Increased malnutrition worldwide
Notice that today, smoking is widely and correctly perceived as a bad practice. Children are cautioned against it and it is banned from most public spaces around the world. Because we stood up against it, our lawmakers could no longer uphold Big Tobacco’s rights over ours, and the victory in that war is sealed. We face a new war against a new “Big” enemy. It is important that we recognize it and take the whole armor of God in it.
Lifestyle Diseases, aka Metabolic Diseases. These are sometimes referred to as Diseases of Affluence. – This is the category of diseases that are directly linked to eating patterns. The “Big” industries finance scientists and universities to produce studies that link these diseases to factors other than diet, such as genetics and specific chemicals. Nonetheless, an overwhelming amount of research in the field of diet and health that is not financed by the Bigs shows undeniable links between what individuals and populations customarily eat (their lifestyle) and their likelihood to develop these diseases. The concept of diet and health appears often throughout scripture.
The reason these diseases are also referred to as Diseases of Affluence is that in these studies, correlations between diet and wealth also became clear. The fact is that one of the strongest correlations discovered was a link between consumption of animal protein and incidence of diseases in this category. Just as in biblical times, only the very wealthy and royalty could partake in animal flesh often, today it is wealthier societies and the wealthiest of the poorer nations who can afford to consume animal-based foods every day. So we see more of these diseases in the more affluent members of the human family. Here are some of the diseases in this category:
Diabetes Types 1 & 2
Kidney and Liver Diseases
These diseases are largely attributed to what we in the western world consider to be a normal level of consumption of animal protein, free sugars (added to packaged foods and beverages and extracted from fruits as juice) sodium and animal fat. To put this into perspective, in biblical times, the average person only ate animal flesh a few times a year when an animal was slaughtered during festivals. Today, we eat animal protein three times a day and don’t consider it gluttony – that is deception.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (or Centers, aka CAFOs or CAFCs) This is what livestock farming has become in modern times. Gone are the days when a shepherd tended sheep in green pastures and cattle languished all day in grassy fields chewing their cud. To support ravenous global demand for animal flesh, dairy and cheese and eggs, CAFOs have redesigned livestock agriculture to produce more animal products faster and cheaper.
The conditions of these operations is horrendous for both the animals and, to a lesser degree, the people who work in them. Animals are crammed (concentrated) together in tight spaces, fed medicated, usually GMO grain feed. There are too many abusive details about the living conditions and the practices employed to maintain the animals until slaughter to list here, but it is horrific. The slaughter is a painful process that is usually frightening for the animals and dangerously unsanitary as well as perhaps mentally disturbing for the people who do it. Also, the large concentration of toxic waste from these centers is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses and global warming, and land and water pollution.
This is all hidden from public view, because if you really saw what was happening, you would think very differently about your choice to eat animal-based foods at every meal daily. In Earthlings, a documentary by Joaquin Phoenix, these and other sad realities are exposed. You have a right to know. Have a look.
Now That We Have Examined Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context, What Can We Do?
OK, this is not going to be complicated, my friend. Like most of God’s solutions to our problems, it is simple. Also like many of His solutions, it is difficult. The truth is that your individual daily choices make a much bigger impact on the world than you thought they did. Every single day, every dollar you spend on what you choose to eat is a vote for or against the food sovereignty of mankind. Let me explain:
This morning, you gave your kids a bowl of Big Brand cereal with dairy milk for breakfast before they went off happily to school. Here’s how that impacted food sovereignty
Your Big Food Brand cereal was produced by a company who is a subsidiary of Monsanto. You didn’t know when you bought it, but basically your purchase supported GMO technology, which is a major part of their business.
That cereal was made from Big Ag corn that came from a monoculture farm in the mid west planted with GMO seed (they don’t legally have to tell you that on the box) and was grown using Monsanto’s Round Up weed killer. That weed killer is made from glyphosate, a known carcinogen (a chemical that is known to contribute to cancer in human beings), is also known to destroy soil quality, and is implicated in the loss of bee populations worldwide. Indeed there had been an outcry against the continued use of glyphosate, so Monsanto is now marketing a newer, not necessarily safer version containing a chemical called dicamba. But I digress.
The cereal contains about 15 grams of sugar per 2 oz serving. You gave your child about 4 oz of it, so you have now given them more than the World Health Organization recommended daily limit of sugar in one meal. They will definitely have more free sugar during the remainder of the day – lunch, snacks, dinner – and in time, they will be likely be overweight or develop obesity or type 2 diabetes. Soon they will become a lifelong customer of Big Pharma.
The dairy milk comes from cows raised in a Big Ag Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, see above), where cows are crammed into tight, unsanitary living spaces, fed GMO corn and soy-based feed that is probably laced with antibiotics and robbed of their young as soon as they are born so that farmers can hook them up to “rape racks” and pump their milk out for profit.
The dairy industry, operating in these CAFOs (or CAFCs), is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in part because of the large pools of toxic cow feces they generate that release the gasses into the air.
Had enough? Want to talk about your egg and cheese sandwich? Your stewed chicken lunch? Your meat and potatoes dinner? Your snack options throughout the day?
Also, consider this: Is it any wonder why these companies are all interconnected? Imagine Bayer – the makers of that aspirin – is one of the largest seed companies in the world. They get money going in and going out! You overeat what they produce, they get paid. You get sick from what your ate, they get paid.
Every dollar you spend votes one way or another.
They count so much because, while we only vote once or twice a year (and because of the electoral college system), we
must eat daily. Notice that the impact of the milk and cereal breakfast option made an impact on both the individual eating it and the global system in which it was produced. That small vote was another way to support those industries and their practices, and in voting for them you continue to allow them to have your food and health under their control.
How Could You Have Voted in the Other Direction?
Instead of Big Brand cereal, opt for an organic food. Start your child off with a piece of organic fruit, preferably locally grown by you or a nearby farmer. This instills the value of whole food (Genesis 1, Daniel 1) in your child. Also, the closer you sourced it, the less fuel it took to get it into your child’s hands. It is nutrient rich and the sugar is in God’s perfect packaging.
If you do give cereal also, again, go organic. Organic foods are legally not allowed to be made from GMO seed crops. Also, the more people buy organics, the more farming will shift away from destructive chemical use, and the more prices will continue to decline.
Opt for a plant based “milk” so as not to support the dairy industry. Unfortunately, while organic dairy milk is still better than the CAFO stuff, it still has these problems
Dairy protein aka casein, bad for human health
Unnecessary overuse of resources, including land and water
Organic plant-based “milk” that is unsweetened is an optimal choice. Many almond and soy “milks” come in unsweetened versions.
Pray. This is our most powerful tool in any war. We go to God, we give Him His praise, and we make our requests. We speak our victory. This is always the first step. We have a prayer sequence. Here’s the first of those.
Learn. This is the fun part! Educate yourself about your food – what is available around you, what symbols on labels mean, what terms are regulated by laws and rules and which ones are not. Also, start learning what fruits and vegetables are from around your region and their seasons of availability. Try new things often.
Change. This is the most difficult part. Your personal changes food choices and buying patterns will make an impact. Holy Spirit can change you if you submit to His changes, and then changes in your thoughts and habits will follow. This will take deeper bible study and a sustainable plan that is tailored to your life. Here’s the 8 Day Really Nourish Devotional designed to get you through that narrow gate on the road to life.
Minister. This is the vital part that helps the movement grow. We are all called to minister the gospel of peace. Once we learn about Christ, we are mandated to tell others. Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. Health is the most important form of abundance, and while the abundance is a free gift, we have our part to play in making our faith complete (James 2).
The war for #FoodSovereignty is on. You are in it, Whether you knew it or not, and now you are armed with Food Sovereignty Defined in a Biblical Context. You have the facts. You know your options. Now you can mobilize.
Up until this point, I have been in the gardener’s equivalent of preschool. Success in pots on a highrise terrace with seedlings during a summer season or two were my first very large, crayon-scribbled attemtps to write my name.
Visions of multiple clever urban gardening installations both outside on my terrace and inside by that expanse of east oriented windows in my livingroom, like trash can potatoes and dwarf citrus trees 🍊and vertically inclined shelves of fresh herbs 🌱🌱🌱, they danced in my head, but my reality was much less inspiring. Nonetheless, like the simple days in Pre K where toddlers learn each vowel and consonant on its own, my five little terrace pots provided just the right amount of learning for my experience level. They would lead to bigger things in God’s good time.
Even my first gardening book was a children’s book. 📖Reading Molly’s Organic Farm by Carol Malnor to my children at bedtime taugh me about companion planting, beneficial insects🐝 and crop rotation among other things. I have since graduated. I am in big kid school now!
Currently Reading📚: Guerilla Gardening by David Tracey, on loan from the
Trinidad National Library System (NALIS)
🍅Currently Planting: Marvel Striped Heirloom Tomatoes and Sugar Daddy Snap Peas from seeds, and a tamarind tree sprout on a small patch in my backyard.
Current techniques in use🌴: Adding topsoil to plant on top of dense clay,
preparing my next spots by laying down a bed of food scraps interlaid with grass cuttings to proactively attract soil life and help nourish the future residents – more food crops and a patch of flowers. Also using Lune & Jardin, an app that helps you plan your gardening in relation to the phases of the moon.
Next 🌺phase plans: Expand vegetable patch, help the children create their own Friendship Garden 💚🌾and utilise items dumped in the back (old wooden boards, pvc pipe, a broken swing set and some kid’s forgotten homemade pushcart) to help create a lovely Faith Garden oasis for my little apartment complex community.