Food and Faith: Nourishment for the Soul

Devoted to diversity and inclusion and its vision for uniting the community, Associated Ministries along with the other members of the Tacoma Interfaith Coalition, on November 12th, presented the second conversation regarding the interconnections between food and faith. 20 members of the community came together on a rainy evening at the University of Puget Sound to learn more about what role food has in different faiths.

Panelists included Imam Ahmad Saleh from the Tacoma Islamic Center, Rabbi Bruce Kadden from Temple Beth El, Erik Hammerstrom from the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, and Rachel Haxtema from Bethany Presbyterian Church. Questions for the panel focused on special religious celebrations involving food, the role of fasting, food as a medium to draw closer to a higher power, and the importance of sharing food with the community and partaking in meals together.

They wanted to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” – Rabbi Bruce Kadden

Initial conversations centered on food as a way to celebrate life and commemorate historic events. Overcoming adversity, defeating an enemy, and courageous actions are all causes for celebration.

Allah provided everything, so we should eat in moderation.” – Imam Ahmad Saleh

Withholding food from the body is also a common practice among the represented religions. For Muslims, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar signals the beginning of a month long fast for the purpose of feeling the pain and suffering of those who are starving, and drawing closer to Allah. The Jewish holiday Yom Kippur involves complete fasting from sunrise to sundown. The focus shifts from the physical self to the spiritual self, and drawing closer to God. And while there are no large occasions for fasting among most contemporary Christians, fasting can be done on a personal level to draw closer to God. Though Buddhism does not involve a belief in God, Buddhist teachings emphasize the “path of the middle,” or moderation.

We believe in interconnectedness.” – Erik Hammerstrom

All four panelists spoke to the importance of sharing and giving food. Sharing creates a stronger sense of community and eating together builds relationships. We cannot exist independently of one another. Despite religious differences, food unites us and provides common ground.

Many thanks to each of our panelists, the University of Puget Sound for hosting this event, and to everyone else who helped make Food and Faith: Nourishment for the Soul a success.

The Tacoma Interfaith Coalition is a comprised of Associated Ministries, Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Islamic Centre of Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University, St. Leo’s Food Connection, Temple Beth El, the University of Puget Sound, and the University of Washington-Tacoma. For more information contact Wendy Morris at or 253-383-3056 ext. 117.

Devynne Nelons
AmeriCorps VISTA
Healthy Parkland Coordinator
Center for Community Engagement & Service
Pacific Lutheran University

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