Each meal I have had since arriving in Taiwan on Sunday has begun with a prayer of thanksgiving for the food and fellowship to be shared at the table, whether in the coffee shop of the YMCA or at a farmers’ market restaurant in the national park or in a restaurant featuring the traditional dishes of one of Taiwan’s Indigenous people, the Ahmi. Conversation during the meal invariably turns to discussion of where the food was grown and its producers. In Taiwan, as elsewhere in the world, more and more of us are questioning the source of our food. We realize the environmental and health benefits of eating locally produced vegetables and fruit. If we buy local produce there is less need for trucks tearing up roads and polluting the air; there is no need to spray harmful preservatives on the food before loading onto trucks or planes; and we are learning what our grandparents already knew – that dishes prepared with fresh ingredients taste better.
In Taiwan, the Presbyterian Church is supporting Indigenous people to return to their land and to raise produce for the growing number of “food-aware” consumers. Community development workers in church-supported projects are working with local Indigenous youth and farmers to develop products such as special jams and condiments so that they can earn more revenue than just selling raw produce. It is an investment in bringing people back to the land so that they can live in their family setting, protect their farms from commercial land developers and continue to be active in their local church. It’s a “win-win” situation: raise healthy and tasty produce; reduce traffic pollution; protect traditional communities; and let people stay connected to their congregations.
Prayer and food can form a mighty and nourishing combination!