At harvest time we give thanks to God for our food. We are grateful that we usually have lots of good food readily available, even if our food choices are not always good. But there was an interesting moment, near the start of the lockdowns, when unfounded fears about food shortages led to panic buying, which did in turn lead to supermarkets running out of certain products. This revealed that there was more anxiety about running out of toilet roll, than running out of food! It also highlighted the importance of the supply chains that deliver food to our supermarkets and that the people who work in those supply chains are indeed Essential Workers. The recent shortage of lorry drivers has also highlighted this. At harvest time we have always remembered farmers and fishermen in our prayers. We also need to remember all the other essential workers who bring our food to us.
Food supply chains are often very long and complicated. Much of our food comes from abroad. A huge number of people are involved in producing, processing, packaging and transporting the food. Covid showed us how easily the supply chains can be disrupted, but also how adaptable and flexible they can be in overcoming the disruption. I’m always astonished how efficient the supply chains can be. A tin of sardines cost 40p locally (31p in Aldi). I find it hard to imagine how it can be produced at such low cost.
Food has always been available through the Covid crisis, but there have been moments when people have struggled to get it, perhaps because of shielding or shortage of money. I was very glad that the “Lapworth Volunteers” helped out locally and also the Lees Chapel food bank. These brief moments of food anxiety remind us of parts of the world where these problems are much more common. The World Health Organisation estimated that in 2018 one in nine people worldwide were undernourished. One in four could be subject to some form of food insecurity. It is a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done on the worldwide elimination of poverty.
My Bishop’s Adviser for the Environment role has also made me very aware of the environmental impact of the food that we consume. Typically food accounts for around 20% of our personal carbon footprint. The best way to reduce this is to waste less food and to eat less beef and lamb.
At this harvest time let’s give thanks to God for our food. Let’s thank God for the many different people who bring our food too us. Let’s pray for, and seek to support, those whose food is inadequate. Let’s be responsible food consumers, so that our food purchases do not damage the environment.
With prayers and best wishes, Fr Patrick
CofE Collect Prayer for Harvest Thanksgiving
you crown the year with your goodness
and you give us the fruits of the earth in their season:
grant that we may use them to your glory,
for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.