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Paying Attention to My Food

By Dan Licardo*
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The latter part of the verse above appears on the lobby wall of New York City's Interchurch Center, which houses Global Ministries and other religious agencies and ecumenical organizations. The first part of the verse was omitted to emphasize the more generic "whatever you do." Eating and drinking may have seemed too mundane to mention in the lobby of a large office building.
But the "whether you eat or drink" part really underscores Paul's command to “do everything for the glory of God." It's not a disposable phrase but a specific example of what he means by "everything." He meant that even our common daily activities, not just the official "important" work we do, should honor God.
I'm habitually a fast eater, either talking to people or reading something while I'm eating. After meals, I realize that the food went down my gullet with little or no attention on my part. Food has become just one more thing I consume rapidly, without being conscious of it, along with information and the earth's resources.
Eating and drinking don't really add up to anything meaningful when they're done mindlessly. It feels, at times, that consuming has become an end in itself.

One thing I've been doing recently to counter this trend is slowing down at least once a week during mealtimes. I eat my lunch alone, without a book, without an iPod, without thinking about anything else except the food in front of me. I smell and look closely at each spoonful before putting it in my mouth. Then I chew slowly and taste every bite. This has helped me slow down the process, be more present, avoid overeating, and thoroughly enjoy my lunch.
It has also helped me give thanks for food in general and not take for granted the ease with which I can get it. This practice has enabled me to be more conscious about the children and adults who go hungry all over the world every day, along with the people whose labor is oftentimes exploited to put affordable food on my table.
How can we honor God and help others in our eating and drinking, and at the very least go about our daily lives without adding to the problem of world hunger?
What We Can Do
In the classic book Twelve Myths About World Hunger, Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins suggest ways for people in the United States to address the issue of feeding hungry people around the world. We can:
  • Use what knowledge we have about hunger to "teach friends, coworkers, and family."
  • "Apply our skills in jobs that confront, rather than accept, a status quo in which hunger and poverty are inevitable."
  • "Decide what level of material wealth we need for happiness…[People] are learning that the less they need, the more freedom of choice they have in where to work, where to live, in learning experiences."
  • Help "through our churches, community groups, trade unions, and local government…[to] address immediate needs…."
  • See that "where and how we spend our money--or don't spend it--is also a vote for the kind of world we want to create."
  • "Take responsibility for the invisible role our savings play when we put them in the bank."
  • Go "to the third world ourselves [and] profoundly alter our perceptions."
I've found that slowing down or paying attention allows me to know when I've had enough to eat, and when I've consumed enough in other areas of my life. The what and how of consumption profoundly affect policies, food generation, and distribution around the world. Paying attention to the lunch on my plate is a necessary first step in the larger work of alleviating world hunger.
*Dan Licardo is the web content administrator for Global Ministries.



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