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Grounded Practical Theology
Christians in the United States are on a quest for good food. And yet, at every turn, they confront brokenness in the food system. Access to healthy food is not secure. Farmers and laborers struggle to find meaningful agricultural work that pays a livable wage. Animals and the land are abused. At the public policy level, legislation has increasingly favored mass-produced products in order to provide the largest amount of food to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible prices— regardless of the consequences. Unable to trace the sources of their food, and perhaps even the ingredients, consumers are vulnerable to a deep and abiding alienation. Still, many religions, including the Christian tradition, orient themselves around the table, a site for connection and nourishment.
Good Food is a practical theology grounded in a rich ethnographic study of the food practices of diverse faith communities and populations. In the midst of the wounded food system, they are hopeful but not naïve, and in their imaginative work, the seeds for a thriving food system are taking root. Grounded in unflinching analysis and encompassing both theological and moral implications, Ayres examines actual religious practices of food justice, discovering in the process a grounded theology for food. Ayres challenges people of faith to participate in communal initiatives that will make a real difference—to support local farmers, grow their own food, and advocate for fair food policies. Good Food equips readers with the theological and practical tools needed to safeguard that which sustains us: food.
A Gounded Practical Theology of Food
1 Primer on the Global Food System
People, Places, Planet
2 Primer on the Global Food System
3 Making Room at the Table
A Theology and Ethics of Food
4 Church-Supported Farming
Building Relationships and Supporting Sustainable Agriculture
5 Growing Food
From Food Insecurity to Food Sovereignty
6 Transformative Travel
Education, Encountering the Other, and Political Advocacy
7 Vocational Sustainability
Agriculture and Ingenuity on the College Farm
Conclusion: Unearthing Beauty
Everyday Visionaries and Hope for the Food System
"Good Food is a wonderful example of a practical theology finely tuned to faith in everyday life! Jennifer Ayres not only helps us see food as overflowing with theological meaning, she counters our temptation to despair over food injustice by offering realistic strategies for resistance and transformation."
—Bonnie Miller-McLemore, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, author of Christian Theology in Practice: Discovering a Discipline, and editor of The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Practical Theology
“Good Food informs us of the injustices and unsustainable practices in our current food systems, and it gives us hope we can do better by telling us stories of people who actually are. It shows us how each meal we eat is an invitation to moral responsibility.”
—Theodore Hiebert, Francis A. McGaw Professor of Old Testament, McCormick Theological Seminary
“Good Food is a concise, crisply written, and evocative account of the ways food is woven into the material and social well-being of the world's people. Blending history, nuanced readings of Christian traditions, and a diverse array of contemporary examples from North Carolina to Mexico, Ayres crafts a call to action around food production, consumption and imagination.”
—Jill DeTemple, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University
"Caught in a bad system yet hoping for an eschatological feast, we must both endure and repair, repent and rejoice, theologize more honestly, and act more faithfully. Ayres shows us the way.”
—D Brent Laytham, for The Christian Century
“Preachers and homileticians will find Good Food to be informative, persuasive, and pragmatic for crafting theological responses in classrooms, pulpits, and the public sphere to food insecurity at multiple registers.”
—Gerald C. Liu, Homiletic (39:1), The Theological School, Drew University
"Good Food is a very good book, one of the very best introductions both to the problems of our current food systemand to the deep Christian sources of some of the solutions to those problems."
—Loren Wilkinson, Theology Today
“Jennifer Ayres takes the reader on an eye-opening tour of what it takes to have good, sustainable, nutritious food. This is a book that whets the appetite for justice and makes you want to get your hands dirty.”
—William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
"This scholarly book ought to be read by practical theologians, ethicists, those engaged in teaching the arts of ministry, and all those committed (or vehemently opposed) to doing theology by engaging lived human experience in grounded ways."
—Kate Lassiter, Mount St. Joseph University, Interpretation
Jennifer R. Ayres is Assistant Professor of Religious Education, Candler School of Theology, Emory University. A frequent writer on faith formation and food justice, she is the author of Waiting for a Glacier to Move: Practicing Social Witness. She lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area.