Thursday, January 22, 2009

What I wouldn't give for more educated churches 

An article in this morning's local paper describes three bits of "food for thought" being discussed at a local church.
One in 10 U.S. households experiences hunger.

A basic North American meal travels 1,500 miles to get to your dinner table.

Research shows that hungry children are more anxious and depressed and less likely to do well in school.

Food and its connection to the community will be the topic of a new study series at a St. Cloud church known for examining complex issues.

�Food for Thought� begins Sunday at First United Methodist Church. It�s open to the public.

This is the fourth study series hosted by the church. Past series have focused on Islam, Christian identity and war.
Let's take those three points separately; they don't hold up well to actual thought:
  1. One in 10 hungry is one of those bits of alarmist garbage you read on liberal websites. Its origins are a USDA report that Robert Rector debunked fifteen months ago.
    In 2006, around two-thirds of food insecure households experienced �low food security,� meaning that these households managed to avoid any disruption or reduction in food intake throughout the year but were forced by financial pressures to reduce �variety in their diets� or rely on a �few basic foods� at various times in the year. According to the USDA, the remaining one-third of food insecure households (around 4 percent of all households) experienced �very low food security,� meaning that at least once in the year their actual intake of food was reduced due to a lack of funds for food purchase. At the extreme, about 1.4 percent of all adults in the U.S. went an entire day without eating at least once during 2006 due to lack of funds for food.
    1.4% went an entire day -- this is known by some of us as fasting. If you were a high school wrestler, you may have experienced "very low food security".

  2. How far your meal travels is not an issue as far as hunger is concerned. In fact, the ability of food to travel is a blessing of our modern trading system. That item in and of itself should be an indication that you are talking greenism through the kitchen door and are trying to end the process that has made the world so much wealthier. If we restrict food trade, we're reducing the very "variety in their diets" that is being used to bloat the number of people hungry!

  3. With those two put out of the way, the third point is that hungry kids do less well in school and are more anxious and depressed. True enough, but that tells us nothing of whether this is a problem. Kids forced to listen to soft jazz on the school intercom all day are probably anxious and depressed too, but luckily schools don't do that.
I am often bombarded with such messages in churches (I was raised Methodist, and such messages is only one reason I am no longer.) Whenever I question the pastor or the lay leaders about why they think such things are true, they trot out points like these three without any critical thought whatsoever. On the list of places I wish I could spend more time teaching economics, a seminary would be pretty high in priority. Even in very conservative Protestant denominations (I have very little experience with non-denominational churches, so I won't infer about them) the level of understanding of basic economic principles is parlous. We want people to trade with each other. We want people to eat, but we also want them to trade with each other. Places that trade with each other are less likely to war with each other. Give trade and peace a chance!

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