How many of you have eaten a home-cooked meal once in the last week? Three times? Five? I’m guessing most of you had maybe one, but there was a drop off at three and five. This is a growing trend in the U.S. and worldwide. People aren’t eating homemade food–they’re too busy, it’s messy, it’s inconvenient, they don’t know how. And when we eat, it tends to be alone and if it’s with others, like family members, we’re often watching television or texting or both.
On Tuesday night, JCC PresenTense Chicago hosted a Launch Night where twelve local fellows, who have been learning about social entrepreneurship and developing their own ventures over the past six months, pitched their projects and officially announced them to the world.
While I admit that a piece of this post is unabashed self-promotion (I was one of the twelve), I was genuinely blown away as one after another my peers got on stage and shared their passions with the audience before us. The energy was incredible, but more than anything, there was a tie that bound so many of the ideas. A few sought to engage the unengagable, others to create new ways to teach and learn about Zionism, others to create community networks. One theme prevailed: food. Four of the twelve fellows were inspired by food.
The motivation behind PresenTense is to give Jews around the world the opportunity to fix a problem they see in the world. The fact that four of us felt compelled to address the issue of our food system–from how it’s grown, to where it’s grown, to how it’s distributed, and how it’s consumed–says a lot about the community and world we live in today.
Food is essential–there’s no getting around it. Culturally, socially, and physically there is something about eating tasty, healthy, whole foods with others that makes all the difference. What does it say about us when we don’t stop to think about the rainy seasons and the dry seasons? How can we learn about our bodies and health from the seasonal availability of certain crops? These sentiments are embedded in Jewish tradition–even the concept that eating with others is superior to eating alone (think about the concept of the zimmun before birkat hamazon, the prayer recited after meals).
I feel like I hear about a new Jewish food-related idea, group, or organization. From large groups like Hazon and AJWS to local synagogues with CSAs to Urban Adamah to Jewish-inspired restaurants. Something is clearly in the global water.
What about you–do you know about a great food group near you?