As we prepare for Holy Week, Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Document For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food.
The USCCB document, For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food, as we have seen, does not just deal with the challenge of hunger here and around the world. Rather it takes in the sweep of agricultural issues ranging from justice for farm owners and workers, to ecological implications, to economic issues of the market and globalization of the food industry.
The bishops write eloquently about the needs of farmworkers. They discuss economic as well as physical hardships endured by this group. They also speak of the need for immigration issues to be settled justly for these workers.
Next, the text takes a more global bent and considers trade and economics both in and beyond our country. Let us consider the bishops’ message: “Food aid is an essential response to people who do not have access to adequate food. We encourage more affluent nations, including the United States, … to focus their aid on meeting the needs of hungry people. Food aid should not be a means for developed nations to dispose of surplus commodities, create new markets for agricultural products, displace local food production, or distort world food prices. Food aid programs should not foster dependency among recipient countries and should be designed in ways that advance broader food security strategies for poor nations. The governments of developing nations have an obligation to do everything reasonably possible to overcome hunger. This requires promoting agricultural development, curbing corruption, and ensuring that food aid actually goes to the hungry. “
The idea of the “haves” aiding the “have-nots” is inbuilt in our Christian life. Yet, there are many implications to this seemingly charitable action. The text continues: “The decision to accept food aid has been complicated by the development of new technologies that alter the genetic make-up of some grains and other foods. Because some of the world’s developed nations will not trade with countries whose goods are genetically altered, accepting genetically modified food aid may jeopardize a poor country’s access to important markets. If genetically altered seeds from food aid are accidentally planted, a country’s crops may become genetically altered and may no longer be accepted by some trading partners. Donors should fully inform developing countries when food aid contains genetically modified crops.
It may be helpful to read the more detailed text of the document itself on these topics. You can find the document on the USCCB website. Knowledge informs our prayer and our stance for justice.