Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told the disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”…from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets (John 6: 11-13).
In other words, there were leftovers.
There is enough food in the world today to feed everyone-with leftovers. Yet about 800 million people-about one in nine-will go to bed hungry tonight. There are all sorts of reasons-political, economic and environmental. Some I understand; others are beyond my comprehension.
For the past two years, my colleague Sheilagh McGlynn and I have been developing educational processes and resources for the three-year food security campaign of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). That work has come to be called “Sharing Bread,” a name coined from Jean Vanier’s 1998 Massey Lectures: “The word ‘accompaniment,’ like the word ‘companion,’ comes from the Latin words cum pane, which means ‘with bread.’ It implies sharing together, eating together, encouraging each other to continue the journey of growth and the struggle for liberation…”
Along the way, I have found myself learning as much about the place of food and food security in my life as I have learned about their place in the lives of PWRDF’s development partners.
One community-building exercise Sheilagh and I developed involves inviting people to share stories of food. I often speak about my growing up years in Cranbrook, B.C., where I spent many weekends and vacation days on the nearby cattle ranch of friends. I learned to plant, tend and harvest veggies, drive the tractor, rake hay and stack hay bales, ride horses, herd cattle and bake bread. On the banks of the Kootenay River, in the shadow of the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, I found “ground to stand on”: I felt most alive, most me and most connected to God’s creation.
For the past 25 years, I have lived and worked in downtown Toronto, about as far from that cattle ranch as one can get in Canada. My work has taken me around the world, and for 20 of those years, through human rights and community development work, it took me to Latin America. I don’t get to herd cattle anymore, except one day in late August this year: not far from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, I found myself standing on the ground of Jerremie and Rita Clyde’s Little Loaves Farm, herding yaks. Yes, yaks. And I felt alive and I felt me and I felt connected to God’s creation.
A Sharing Bread workshop in Calgary had brought participants to Little Loaves Farm, where we learned about how the Clydes are bringing the land of this degraded quarter-section farm back to life, as a community of friends and neighbours watches somewhat mystified.
PWRDF partners from the Anglican diocese of Masasi in Tanzania, who visited Canada this summer, shared and ate with and encouraged those of us gathered at the Sorrento Centre Farm in B.C. as we learned about the interconnected issues of food aid, food security and food sovereignty. Joyce Mtauka, a farmer and community leader, shared some of her cashew nut harvest. Best cashews I have ever tasted! And after consulting with Sorrento farmer Dave Wides, Joyce took home to Tanzania kale and beet seeds to grow on her own farm for the first time.
For the first time this summer, I grew cherry tomatoes on my city balcony. Best cherry tomatoes I have ever tasted! Next summer, I may attempt to grow potatoes in a vertical pot.
Food literally “shapes” us. It brings us together around family, community and eucharistic tables. It can draw us into relationship with farmers and food producers, and, if we’re lucky, give us “ground to stand on.” It is both about who we are and how we are here in Canada and in partnership with those we accompany in the global south. It is sharing bread-cum pane-with leftovers.
Suzanne Rumsey is public engagement co-ordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada.