Food, Justice, and the Church: How Local Churches Can Better Serve Black Communities Through Food Pantries—and Why They Should
This thesis seeks to examine how churches might better practice Jesus's command to “love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:37) through food pantries that primarily serve Black communities. Although churches believe they exemplify Jesus’s command to love through their food pantry ministry, they are too often offering cheap love—love that is artificial, inauthentic, and unhealthy. Many churches, in my experience, have a transactional approach in their food pantries—they collect and distribute foods that are cheap, processed, and high in sodium and sugar. However, this practice is possibly causing long-term effects that are physically harmful to Black people who regularly receive and consume these kinds of goods. This thesis will examine food insecurity and health disparities that significantly affect the Black community. Second, this thesis will review literature that has contributed to the food justice movement. Third, in conjunction with Matthew 22 and Daniel 1 and ministry examples, this thesis will encourage churches to adopt a relational approach that will lead them to love and empower their patrons and lean into Christianity’s surprise. Fourth, this thesis will offer curriculum to help church leaders enhance their love for God and others. By learning to love more and in new ways, churches can adopt a more relational approach in the food pantry ministry. Last, this research will offer creative models of how churches and organizations have been able to connect their community to agriculture. When churches embody the expansive nature of this love through their food pantry ministry, their fight against the hunger crisis will be more holistic as they will understand the critical correlation between healthy relationships and healthy food distribution. If churches are going to commit to providing food for Black communities, they must integrate equality and justice in their food ministry mission. It is critical for churches to be more thoughtful about how their actions and the ways they give can be rooted more in love and justice. This type of food ministry will require churches to rethink the kinds of food they provide to other people and their methods to collect and distribute foods. This thesis posits that if churches want to better serve Black communities through food pantry ministries, they should consider possible health risks of Black people and how the act of food distribution can reflect the church’s love for God and the hungry.
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