In the Bible, God’s love is often expressed through and with food, beginning in Genesis 1:29 when He says, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” We see Him as our ultimate provider who gives abundantly. And we know from the Gospels that He will do this unconditionally.
A Healthy Relationship with God and Food
I grew up knowing that food is a gift from God, a blessing. However, I did not know that my relationship with it would be completely transformed after I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. I went from barely eating and able to cook my own food to the point now were I cook everyday. I now make healthier food choices while still enjoying fresh, flavorful food, just as God intended us to do.
By His grace, I am doing much better today. Now, on Saturdays you will find me busy wiping off counters, setting up chairs, and unloading huge bags of fresh vegetables onto folding tables in preparation for cooking workshops I facilitate at a local women’s shelter. It’s the beginning of a fresh expression called Eat to Live that uses cooking workshops to help individuals and families undergoing economic and emotional hardships prepare healthy meals, all while experiencing God’s love.
I try my best to bring the Good News to women living in shelters, women struggling to find housing and jobs and, for some, struggling to raise children. I do this by staying rooted in the Gospels and embracing a process that includes listening, loving, serving, building community, and exploring discipleship, something I learned from attending Fresh Expression conferences this year.
Cooking, Sharing Stories, and Learning
Even though most of our time is spent chopping, mixing, and stirring, the women at the shelter and I do a lot of talking. They share with me some of their challenges with eating healthily. Though they receive groceries at the shelter—meats, dairy, frozen and canned vegetables, and packaged foods—some women are diabetic, have high blood pressure or simply want their children to eat more healthily. They want more fresh vegetables and want to learn how to cook with them.
I feel blessed to be a part of a process that brings more fresh vegetables to the shelter and helps women cook with them. However, as the women share with me and I learn about them, I feel I should give them a chance to also get to know me and why I come on Saturdays.
When appropriate, I share a little about my past struggles with accessing and cooking fresh foods, but not in any way that might minimize their current situations, which are very hard and very real. Rather, I talk about my past in terms of hope and how God has worked and is still working in my life, especially during difficult times.
I think the women at the shelter are enjoying the meals we prepare together and our conversations, at least that is what the staff is saying.
And, while I prepare for the next cooking workshop, I continue to ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. I pray that the women at the shelter can find a new sense of hope, with God playing a significant role.
Sharon Wong is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and became involved in the food justice movement in 2003. She has collaborated and assisted grassroots organizations and groups in NYC to develop programs and shape policies to improve school food, community food, and foster active living in low-income neighborhoods. Today, she lives in South Florida, attends First Church Coral Springs and manages Communal Food a project that helps individuals and families access, prepare, and grow good food.