As part of the national holiday celebrating the life and work of Dr. King World Hunger Relief, Inc. will be working at nine gardens in Waco. I’ll be tweeting from Lakeshore Baptist Church. Jes Nuanez will be tweeting from Brazos Middle School and Matt will be tweeting from all over the place. We’ll also be adding photos to the MLK Day flickr stream. We have 60 swiss chard, 60 cabbage, 55 lettuce, 40 broccoli, 1500 collards, 250 lbs potatoes and 100 lbs onions to plant. That’s a lot of plants and a lot of food for the spring.
But what does gardening have to do with the legacy of this civil rights leader? The national program is geared towards getting people to serve for the holiday. Almost any service will do. Still, how does what we do at the farm and in town honor someone who came to symbolize the civil rights movement and continues to give hope to marginalized and oppressed people around the world?
Well, the effects of our industrial food system weigh heaviest on people of color who are most at risk for diabetes and obesity. The economic costs of the obesity epidemic is staggering. Poverty forces people to make poor food choices. SNAP and WIC benefits are improving, but much of the food available to the poor on these benefits is the food highest in cheap calories and lowest in real nutrition. At a USDA listening session someone from Texas Food Bank Networks compared the price of an organic american-grown apple at $2 to a bag of cheese puffs that costs $1.50. If someone has limited resources, which one will they most likely spend their money on to feed themselves and their family?
Many of the poor find themselves living in the middle of urban food deserts. Grocery stores often have little interest in low-income neighborhoods perceived as dangerous, bad for business and a market not worth considering. All of this suggests that people in poverty, predominantly minorities, continue to have the least access to good, nutritious, affordable food.
Dr. King’s vision went beyond racism, to include the evils of militarism and materialism*. Each plant that goes into the ground tomorrow is part of that vision. It is a hope for a better future for the kids at our school gardens and those who get assistance from local food banks and church food pantries. Dr. King’s vision was for that biblical shalom that God intended for the world and all its creatures. We hope to do our part as faithful people tomorrow, by caring for creation and creatures at the same time.
*“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From “Beyond Vietnam,” April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York City.