My name is Hannah Henza, an Americorps VISTA member working for RAFI’s Come to the Table project. I have a strong relationship with God, and I have a complex relationship with my food. Like many of us, I have begun to analyze how I interact with my food and how this relates to my faith, my community and my sense of self. This leaves me with lots of questions and a slightly broken heart. I say slightly because, as sad as we all know our food problems to be (1 in 5 people are food insecure!), there is hope in you and others who are working alongside Come to the Table to create a better and more just food system in North Carolina.
In 2008, as a high school junior participating in the North Carolina State Future Farmers of America (FFA) Competition, I began to realize that my life was much more connected to the Earth than I had ever stopped to consider before. My mom and dad had both grown up on a farm, but that was never something talked about or something I expected to relate to. My food came from a big box with sliding glass doors, and that was fine.
Two summers later, however, I had the privilege of working for a minister who talked about food like it was his spiritual center. And I was looking for a spiritual center. High school and college are hard, and for me, those experiences asked what seemed like a thousand questions from a faith I had always known and never understood. This left me confused, lost and almost desperate for answers.
Through that summer staff experience, I learned about faith, what it means to live your faith and what it might mean to me. Faith changed from what I believed, to what it meant to believe. What surprised me after that summer, though, was how quickly I embraced this concept of putting my faith where I eat.
Within the next year I was shocked to find myself in a farmers market, making my own bread, becoming aware of the fair trade market and eating organic produce. I began setting aside time to prepare my food and intentionally bought less processed ingredients, forcing myself to create moments with God in the kitchen. Local, community garden, fresh and seasonal became words of my daily vocabulary. All of this was an attempt to gain one small nugget of the spiritual enlightenment that my minister seemed to have, and it might have been working.
As I finished my degree in Anthropology at North Carolina State University, I became deeply interested in how groups of people all over the world were living their faith and eating their food. I never expected to find such a lively movement in North Carolina, chewing on some of these same ideas and gathering in conferences to discuss putting their faith in action on their plates.
I have had unexpected twists and turns in my faith journey, leaving me eager to support all of you who fight every day for a food system that closer resembles your beliefs and faith principles. I am already inspired by the people in Come to the Table’s network who live by the words of the Apostle Paul: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God [for] it is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.”
I don’t have all the answers yet. I don’t even have all of the questions figured out. But that doesn’t keep me from being excited–excited about what this year with RAFI and Come to the Table will bring, and excited about the friends I will meet and the relationships I will strengthen.
I look forward to learning from you, your projects and your faith. Thank you for what you do
and thank you for how you choose to live your lives. I can’t wait to meet you!