When I was a child, my grandparents owned a small grocery store in Quinque, Virginia, a small town about twenty miles north of Charlottesville, the nearest city. They provided food, including milk, meat, fresh produce, canned goods, and candy for their very small community. More than this, they provided a sense of community, a place of civic engagement where people could gather and share news and ideas. When my grandparents retired, their store was converted into a convenience store with far more limited and almost exclusively processed food offerings, forcing residents to travel much further for food and eliminating altogether the communal connections found in the old Powell's Store. This is a change not unfamiliar to communities across the United States. The proliferation of food deserts, especially across America's rural landscapes and in its urban centers, has eroded many families' access to food. Market pressures privilege large food distributors and wealthy communities while economic instability compounds the food security crisis assailing the world's wealthiest economy, its third largest agricultural producer, and its leading agricultural exporter. Many Americans across the United States are hungry, finding it increasingly more difficult to reliably feed their families while public programs designed to fight food insecurity face budget cuts. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, food insecurity plagued a new demographic: the educated, the formerly middle class, the never-before-hungry. This shined a new light on the way that American culture treats people who are food insecure. What does this mean for our communities and our fellow citizens and how can the crisis of hunger in America be addressed? This edited collection looks at the problem of food insecurity in the United States from a variety of perspectives and examines efforts underway to put food on the tables of America's families. From national programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to community endeavors like Micah’s Backpack, these chapters analyze food security initiatives, their challenges, and their successes. It also introduces us to the hungry among us, allowing us to better understand the problem of food insecurity from the perspective of those who face it on an ongoing basis. These chapters remind us that food is not just essential for individual human life. It is also the lifeblood of our communities.
This book focuses on food history and the historical degradation of food in the United States. Corporate greed and agribusinesses are at the center of our loss of what Dr. Marbut calls our “spiritual foodways.” She suggests that chemically altered genomes, polluting our ecosystems as well as weakening our personal health and social wellbeing, have compromised our collective welfare. Even though a growing recognition of the sacred dimension of caring for ecosystems, bodies, and communities is sparking one of the most significant phenomena of spiritual renewal in the twenty-first century, the sacrosanct nature of historical food systems has not been examined, until now, as a vital weapon in activists’ efforts against industrialized means of food production.
By utilizing interdisciplinary approaches to food studies, Dr. Marbut explores food history through writings concerned with the consumption of food as a spiritual, physical, sensual, and communal endeavor, expressing cross-cultural research showcasing the deeply embedded nature of women and food. She believes that our ethical relationship with food is dependent upon our knowledge of the treatment of each commodity: plant or animal. A right relationship with food, she argues, comes first from knowing food history from a spiritual perspective. Her work centers upon the notion that food should be understood as both whole and holy.