Buying and Sharing Food

Food nourishes our bodies and souls giving us strength to work, play, pray and enjoy our families and friends. A shared meal, like breaking bread at Communion, is a way to emotionally and spiritually connect with one another. It is chance to share our lives, our hopes, dreams and even a few good jokes. Holidays such as Christmas, Easter and of course Thanksgiving revolve around memorable meals often cooked from recipes handed down through generations. Birthdays, weddings, funerals, and the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation usually gather the family around food. Parishes host many events for their flock, from harvest festivals and Knights of Columbus breakfasts to pot-luck dinners and funeral luncheons. What they serve and from where they buy food can have great impact on the earth.

In addition, the United States bishops have said greater attention must be given to “needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable… We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.” Churches often have many programs including food pantries to reach out to those in need. Filling them with nutritious and locally produced food is best for them and the environment.

Parish and School Actions for Buying and Sharing Food

Meatless Fridays, Meatless Mondays

Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for our nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet. It takes approximately 1,850 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef, as opposed to just 39 gallons of water to produce a pound of vegetables. Thirty countries and counting have signed on to Meatless Mondays worldwide movement that encourages people to adopt this habit. The website also has many delicious, meatless recipes from mushroom frittata, quinoa chilli fries, to butternut squash and spinach alfredo. 

Fast during Lent

On Lenten fast days, feature a parish meal consisting of a bowl of rice, the staple in many developing countries. Then donate the cost of a full meal to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl. Seventy-five percent of the money supports CRS’ programs around the world and 25 percent supports hunger and poverty programs in local communities. Additionally, consider fasting one day per month on the holy day of your choice. Fasting is an ancient and integral part of our faith tradition, and studies have shown that periodic fasting is healthy for you. 

Join the local food movement

Hop on board the local food bandwagon by joining one of the many organizations that can connect you to farmers, markets and local food establishments in Massachusetts. Buy Local groups in Massachusetts are agricultural organizations that support the movement and has many resources for everyone from farmers to eaters to chefs. You may visit the page and click on a “Buy Local” group near you on the map for more information.

Support the local food pantry or food bank

Many communities and churches manage food pantries to help low-income families, children, immigrants, seniors, and others who lack the resources to afford enough food to sustain a healthy life. Many do this in partnership with food banks. Each Massachuesetts region have their own food banks, visiting the Mass Department of Health and Human Services website will give you a list of these food banks. Currently, 1 in 10 households in Massachusetts are food insecure. To give you a glimpse of our impact, here are several statistics from our food banks:

  • The Greater Boston Food Bank. Together, hunger-relief agencies and organizations provided food to 140,000 Eastern Mass residents across 190 communities on a monthly basis.
  • Worcester County Food Bank. 10.3% of the population in Worcester live at or below the poverty line. As a response, the Worcester County Food Bank and its food pantries have worked together to tackle this statistic by providing assistance to 12% of the population.

To find food pantries near you to support, refer to more information on this page.  Additionally, consider exploring Project Bread, an anti-hunger organization based in Massachusetts, to learn about what local organizations and communities are doing to provide access to healthy food for all. Project Bread features a Walk for Hunger and several volunteer opportunities available in the Greater Boston area. 

For more information:

Family Actions for Buying and Sharing Food

Buy locally grown food

When possible, purchase vegetables, fruits, meats and cheeses grown in Massachusetts and in the Northeast to reduce greenhouse gases emitted during transportation. According to World Watch, on average our food travel 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farms to your table. Furthermore, CUESA says that for each calorie of food produced, we are putting almost 10 calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system. This means buying local food makes a lighter carbon footprint and minimizes our negative impact to the environment. When we are buying locally grown food, we are also supporting local farmers and our community’s economy. There are “Buy Local” organizations throughout the state advocating this cause if you would like to learn more about locally grown products. In addition, MassGrown has many resources to get you started, i.e a map of farmer’s markets and farms in your area. They have also generated a poster of “10 reasons to eat locally grown”

Did you know?  

Massachusetts was ranked 7th out of 50 states, Puerto Rico and D.C in the Strolling of the Heifers 2017 Locavore Index in terms of their commitment to local foods. Some of the components of this index included: consumer-supported agriculture, farmer markets, direct-to-the-public sales at farms, food programs, and a recently added component: number of hospitals that have pledged to source locally food whenever possible.

Buy organic and naturally grown food if possible

According to the USDA census, Massachusetts has 198 organic farms. Organic agricultural practices avoid synthetic chemicals when producing vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and dairy. Most synthetic agricultural chemicals are manufactured from fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases. Check a product’s label to see if it is organic or naturally grown. Mass Grown contains a map of farms, markets, and agricultural activities that feature Massachusetts-grown food.

Did you know? 

From our farms to grocery stores to dinner tables, 30% of the food we grow is never eaten. At 2.8 trillion pounds, that’s enough food to feed three billion people, the people that go to bed hungry every night (National Geographic Magazine).

Shop carefully and use cloth bags

When stocking up on groceries, choose items with less packaging. Try to buy in bulk and freeze or package food in small portions to reduce cardboard and plastic wrapping. And since plastic grocery bags are a major source of litter, get in the habit of using cloth or recycled fiber bags to pack your groceries.

Eat lower on the food chain

There are health benefits as well as environmental benefits when we are eating lower on the food chain. To name a few of these health benefits, they include reducing heart disease, limiting cancer risks, and improving your diet. In terms of environmental benefits, producing fruits and vegetables requires less energy and water than most meat. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the meat industry generates a fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. We can help slow this trend if reduce our meat consumption. At the same time, we are also reducing our water usage because livestock requires a greater amount of water than vegetables or grains. According to PETA, it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef whereas 1 pound of tofu only takes 244 gallons of water. If we eat less meat and more vegetables on a weekly basis, we are conserving water and preserving the environment for future generations. 

New U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines recommend that half of our meal should consist of fruits and vegetables. At parish pot-luck meals, we can strive to bring mostly vegetables and fruits to promote this environmentally-friendly and healthy lifestyle. 

PLEASE, don’t waste food

Food waste comprises more than 20% of garbage in landfills and is a significant source of methane gas – a greenhouse gas - as it rots, according the Environmental Protection Agency. Nationally, we waste almost 40% of all food produced. We can avoid wasting food by not over buying, properly storing it, and eating leftovers before they become scientific experiments. Avoid scraping edible food into the trash. If you have some vegetables and fruits that are past their prime, toss them in a blender with a little local honey and presto – a nutritious smoothie! When those parish meals are finished, take home leftovers or donate them to food pantries, food banks, or food rescue programs.

Compost food scraps

Rather than toss corn cobs, banana and potato peels, apple cores, and those moldy leftovers into the garbage destined for the landfill, compost them. The section on landscaping provides resources on how to get started. Homemade compost can be used to fertilize plants, save money on potting soil, and reduce trips to the retail gardening center.

Did you know? Winners of the 2017 Food Recovery Challenge in New England included many colleges in Massachusetts such as Clark University and College of Holy Cross. Holy Cross highlights their zero-waste program to eliminate all waste from their dining halls. Any waste that cannot be recycled or composted was burned for energy. When there is extra food, dining services work with local organizations to provide food and support the college's mission of "men and women for and with others."  

Check out PBS’ infographic on How-To-Compost or How to Build a Simple Compost Pile  

Grow food in your backyard, school yard and church yard

The ultimate fast food can be grown just steps from your back door. For help on how to plant, when to plant and what to plant, visit the University of Massachusetts Amherst Extension.  Extension agents, Massachusetts’ Master Gardeners, and publications can assist both novice and advanced gardeners in growing fruits, vegetables and even chickens. Planting Something is an organization run by Mass’ environmental horticulturists and their website has many gardening tips presented in a user-friendly and informal manner. You may also see Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) which is a non-profit organization made for all gardeners, consumers, organizations and individuals who are passionate about healthy foods and a healthy environment. For more information, see the pages on Community Gardens in Sustainable Landscaping.

Avoid drinking bottled water

Instead of supplying bottled water at events, bring your own cup or supply cups made of recyclable material and pitchers of tap water to parish events. Producing bottled water actually uses a great deal of water. In fact, it takes three times more water to make each plastic bottle as it does to fill it. Bottled water is also far more expensive than tap water (more than 300 times more expensive!) and it is no healthier than tap water.  The production of bottled water also uses an enormous amount of energy – the equivalent of what it takes to fuel 1.5 million cars annually. In addition, transporting bottled water across thousands of miles spews carbon dioxide into the air, complicating our efforts to combat global climate change.

Give thanks

The Holy Father reminds us to say grace before meals. “I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. The moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for Life: it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation: it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods.”