Food has cultural, religious connections

TORONTO — The question of whether food is sacred may have seemed out of place at a gathering focused largely on trade and industry efficiency.

Still, it was not difficult to receive considered responses at the Canadian Food Summit held in Toronto March 18-19.

Michael Bloom of the Conference Board of Canada seemed puzzled at the question, but did venture an opinion on the societal implications of food production for the farm community.

“We see a social dimension be-cause it’s such a central part of life and integral to the country as well,” he said.

Paul Kelly, director of Food & Drink Industry Ireland, said connections to the land run deep in his homeland.

The farming population is large and even in the city, most people are removed from the land by only one or two generations.

Carolyn Young, acting director of Sustain Ontario, talked about the rituals of food, from its seasonality to the prayers some families offer before eating.

“From a personal standpoint, I do believe it’s sacred. It’s about people’s connection to the land,” she said.

“Food is something that’s a physical need and a spiritual need. It’s about connecting community to community. It’s also a right. When you put a price on those things, you cheapen life.”

Shiferaw Adilu of Alberta Agriculture brought a perspective from one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

“Food is king. That is what’s said in Ethiopia. I think what it means is that food rules in a sense. Even the king has to eat,” he said.

“In some societies, if someone sees food dropped to the floor, they pick it up and they don’t throw it away because, as you say, it’s sacred and you can’t throw away something that’s sacred.”

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