The shocking facts are well-known by now to those who have not chosen to remain in denial. 1/3 of American adults are obese, as are 17% of our children. Over the last 30 years adult obesity rates have doubled and child obesity rates have tripled. Whereas just 20 years ago no state in America had over 20% of it’s citizens overweight, now that is true in EVERY state in America. A mere ten years ago there there was only one state in the country (Kentucky) in which over 40% of adults were obese. Amazingly, ten years later that is now true in 39 states. It is as if our nation is suffering from a slow-acting disease, an epidemic, which is destined to kill of millions of us, afflict a generation of children with diabetes and devastate our already-overloaded health care system. It is perhaps the greatest health crisis we have ever faced.
And it is all because of ignorance, overconsumption and an absence of self-control.
It is particularly shocking that the rates of obesity are greatest in the states where church attendance is the highest. I’m not convinced that there is any correlation between going to church and being obese, but I am convinced that there has been a monumental failure on the part of the clergy to shepherd their congregations on this.
But there is a change in the air. At the conference we attended last Thursday we heard wonderful stories of congregations and churches stepping up to address the crisis, across all denominations and all across the country. Churches are putting in community gardens, they’re hosting parking lot farmer’s markets and CSA drop-off points, they’re implementing health and wellness programs, they’re educating their children and their congregations, they’re calling out the industrial food system for the creation-killing death-machine that it is. They’re proclaiming the truth that disrespect for creation (including our bodies) is disrespect for the Creator.
For those who want to learn more about how to incorporate these issues into a church or faith-based group, here are some great resources from the North Carolina Council of Churches: http://www.nccouncilofchurches.org/food-curriculum/