The concept that you are what you eat is a simple one. Anyone who has eaten too much junk knows the feeling of a bloated, pained gut. Any athlete can attest to a difference in performance based on diet.
However, our diet is not only limited to the foods we eat. We feast on the things we see, the words we hear, the environment that surrounds us. The diet of the culture around us impacts who we are as much as the foods we eat impacts our bodies.
Our work in the Healthy Eating and Living program is not simply about giving people produce, teaching classes, or even coaching people in to better behavior. Of equal importance are the words we speak and actions we show. When someone walks through the doors of Church for All People, they walk into a sacred space where the people of God are gathered—whether to shop in the Free Store or to worship. They receive a different diet than they find anywhere outside our doors.
The contrast of this difference is striking.
Within an easy stones through of our building are three liquor stores that offer a diet of culturally acceptable self-medication and addiction.
In contrast, today, I experienced two churches from outside our community who offered a different diet to the people of Columbus’ South Side. Stony Brook United Methodist Church brought homemade chicken sandwiches to the Loaves and Fishes lunch service, which feeds some of the city’s most vulnerable people. Powell United Methodist Church served vegetable and pasta “Soup for the Soul” to people shopping in the Free Store. One person from Powell shared that the reason they have been serving soup for years is because so many healthy things can be put in soup.
In both these cases, more than healthy meals were served. People were greeted with smiles, handshakes were offered to familiar friends, God’s grace was shared as much in an attitude of hospitality and acceptance, as in eating.
The old saying holds true once more: you are what you eat applies as much to feasting on God’s grace as it does to sharing a warm meal.