Earth Day 2010: Food and Environmental Justice

As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to living in ways that respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people as well as the interdependent web of life of which we are a part. Making ethical eating choices is a big part of this commitment.

Fortunately, people all over the United States are thinking about just this right now. Several recent best-selling books have been written about authors’ deliberations about what to eat, and UU congregations have been engaging in the current Congregational Study/Action Issue, “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice.”

Our resources for Earth Day 2010 are all about ethical eating and food justice—a lot of great information is gathered here for you to explore and use. (Update: for Earth Day 2014, we collected resources on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, which delves even deeper into the justice issues.)

This post provides an overview of ethical eating resources and actions. Check out these companion posts for more information and actions on specific aspects of food justice:

Ethical Eating Statement of Conscience

Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice was approved as a Statement of Conscience at the 2011 UUA General Assembly, after a 4-year Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) process.

The CSAI Core Team, led by Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh, published a comprehensive Resource Guide and a Worship Resources Supplement for congregations to use in exploring the hidden ways our food choices impact our communities and our world. As stated in the guide, “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice is personal in nature – involving our free choices of what we put in our own bodies – and global in reach – with implications for ecosystems, human hunger, social inequity, animal welfare, and climate change.” The Ethical Eating CSAI was an invitation for congregations and districts to take this topic and confront it, reflect on it, learn about it, respond to it, comment on it, and take action—each in their own way.

Following the passage of the Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating at General Assembly 2011, the Ethical Eating Core Team, along with some new members, was appointed as the UUA President’s Advisory Committee on Ethical Eating (PACE). In 2013, PACE joined forces with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee to focus on environmental justice and food workers’ rights with a campaign that kicked off on May 1, International Workers Day.

A person in an apron stands over plates of couscous, salad, and fruit
Photo by Sally Carroll

Learn More

Take Action

  • Take action for fair food with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Ask grocery store and restaurant corporations to sign agreements committing to buy tomatoes from farms that provide farm workers a fair wage and dignified working conditions.
  • Take action on federal community food security policy – the Community Food Security Coalition provides information on several federal policies and an advocacy toolkit for community food issues ranging from food safety to child nutrition to urban agriculture.
  • Advocate for serving healthier food for school lunch. Child obesity threatens our children’s health and our country’s future – but schools can’t serve healthier food unless Congress passes a strong Child Nutrition Act. Please tell your legislators to invest in healthier food, strengthen nutrition standards and link schools to local farms. Slow Food USA is a good source for campaigns on this topic.
  • The Northwest Earth Institute has two excellent discussion courses to support congregations in their ethical eating activities. Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability both include many resources and ideas for action projects.
  • Honor World Food Day (October 16) and Food Day (October 24) in your congregation.
    • World Food Day focuses on alleviating hunger around the world and in our communities, sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It works in part to empower rural people, particularly women, to be part of the decisions and activities that influence their living conditions.
    • Food Day is a newly-launched project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, focused on healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and hunger. Modeled on Earth Day, organizers hope Food Day will inspire Americans to hold thousands of events in schools, college campuses, houses of worship, and private homes aimed at fixing the U.S. food system. 

Congregational Stories

  • Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival Project: A multi-faceted, multi-generational project hosted by Second Unitarian Church of Omaha
  • A Thriving Ministry of Local Foods: UU Rockland, ME
  • UUs Choose Justice Through Fair Trade: All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC, and Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester, CT, are two of many congregations participating in the UUSC Coffee Project
  • UUs Support CIW for Justice in the Tomato Fields: UU Church in Ft. Myers, FL
  • Update: Over 150 congregations registered and shared their Earth Day 2010 activities with UUMFE. More than half the congregations planned Earth Day events around food and environmental justice, including the 40/40/40 challenge. Here is a list of events (PDF), as of May 9, 2010. We will continue to keep the list updated. If you see an idea that appeals to you, and would like more detailed information, contact the congregation through its office e-mail, available through the UUA’s find a congregation feature.