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25 January 2013

Food heaven, food hell

Food heaven, food hell

On the rare occasion my wife and I have a few hours spare together on a weekend, you might find us in front of a cooking show. Food is a big part of our family time, so learning new recipes and ways to enjoy it is always a pleasure.

A particular favourite is Saturday Kitchen, usually featuring a celebrity plugging and name dropping away in between mouthfuls of 'here's one we made earlier'. The B-lister also has to name two different dishes - one they deem 'food heaven' and another, 'food hell'. Viewers call in and vote for which dish they should eat. Entertainment may vary depending on how vindictive viewers are feeling that Saturday.

In reality, the image of food heaven and hell is quite different. Food hell is not politely eating mushrooms even though you despise the texture, or brussels sprouts that you'll secretly hide under your napkin; it's not having food at all.

Recently, I heard the story of a young boy in Zimbabwe named Caesar. An orphan at just four years old, he lives with his three sisters in one of the country's poorest communities. Every night he cries himself to sleep because he's hungry.

Nearly a billion people on our planet are going to bed hungry every night. That's one in eight people in a living food hell. Even the UK, one of the world's richest nations, is seeing a staggering rise in food banks.

But there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. The rising costs of food, changes in climate, tax avoidance, greed of companies taking land away from farmers, and many other factors mean that we see hunger crises in the poorest communities time and time again, while other parts of the world tackle obesity, overconsumption and incredible amounts of food waste.

Where is the justice in this worldly imbalance? As God's church we believe we are all part of one body - so can we rest knowing that part of our body is in pain because of a broken food system? Can we stand by knowing that Caesar is going hungry night after night?

A world in which everyone has access to enough food is possible. This week, Tearfund and over 100 other charities proved that they agree by launching the biggest UK anti-poverty campaign since Make Poverty History. The 'IF' movement challenges the government to tackle the big IFs that stop everyone in the world having enough.

This is what God intends His earth to look like. We read in Micah 4:4 that heaven will see everyone "under their own vine and under their own fig-tree" - an inspirational image of everyone having security, peace and enough to eat.

Food is an easy conversation. It's on our TVs and our tables. This campaign is a chance to change those conversations with our family and friends and inspire them with God's intention for His earth. A great chance to show people that the church isn't a just a holy huddle hiding behind the church walls. Talk to them about justice, about taking action, making a stand - help them see Jesus in their daily bread.

Micah 4:4 doesn't have to stay only in the pages of the Bible. As Christians we should be actively working towards a world that looks like that - a world in which the inequalities are stripped away and each person has enough food. IF could make that happen, and bring a taste of heaven to our brothers and sisters who need us to fight for their survival.

Dave Westlake is integral mission director at Tearfund, director of Soul Action, national director of Serve and co-chair of the Cinnamon Network. He is also a member of the Hope leadership team.