In 2012, Wake Forest University School of Divinity identified this need and created the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative. Our goal was to help faith leaders create more redemptive food systems: local, equitable food economies that create health for both people and planet.

Here on campus we created a Food & Faith concentration for students enrolled in our Master of Divinity program. But our work doesn’t stop there. The continuing education workshops and retreats sponsored by this Initiative have attracted hundreds of faith leaders from across North Carolina. Interest has spread beyond North Carolina to include representatives from 17 states stretching from Arizona to Washington, D.C.; from 10 colleges (Wake Forest University to Exeter University in England); and from more than a dozen Christian denominations. We gained support from such national foundations as Kalliopeia, Opaline Fund, and the Byron Fellowship Educational Foundation. We created a pilot fellowship program for young religious leaders working in the areas of food justice and sustainable agriculture; convened four summer courses in Food, Faith, and Ecology in the North Carolina mountains; and continue to host continuing education events in central and western North Carolina.

For faith leaders working on food insecurity, health disparity, or ecological degradation, the level of complexity is immense. We can easily become overwhelmed by the scale and difficulty of the problems our communities face. Which thread do you pull? Where to begin?