Religious food storage v hoarding laws?
October 12, 2010 7:46 AM   Subscribe

How do religious folk who practice food storage as part of preparedness beliefs and customs deal with actual instances of widespread food shortages?

I'm thinking specifically about the legal side of things (ie war time anti food hoarding legislation, and similar laws meant to deal with food panics and natural disasters), but also about possible moral and ethical questions arising from the desire to share with others who haven't stored food.
posted by Ahab to Religion & Philosophy (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is a very interesting, but also strangely worded, question. Maybe you could go into more detail about what perspective you're coming at this through. If it's a hypothetical, "How do people who hoard canned goods today prepare for some hypothetical event in which they're barred from hoarding?" then the question seems rather academic (i.e., unreal). There's no other period in history that's had the kind of surplus we have for the past fifty years. If your question is more about historical relations between people with surplus and the state in periods of shortage, then I think there's room for a very large comparative study. One could look at, e.g., Britain's war shortage practices vs. those of the Soviet Union, for example. One could look at Cuba, where they've had shortages for much of the time period since the revolution. In this case, there are no religions that practice food storage as part of preparedness beliefs, for the simple reason that you can't store food when you need to eat. This latter fact gets at something you seem to be willfully ignoring, which is that religions are socially determined. I'd be very interested in knowing which religions you're referring to that practice food storage as part of their doctrine and when these religions adopted these preparedness beliefs into their practice - I would bet anything that it wasn't during a food crisis.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:03 AM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: I am a Mormon and my church counsels families to store food and other basic supplies. For more information on what my church recommends you can visit Provident Living. Generally the church has counseled us to store food where possible and in accordance with local laws. So they never recommend we break the law to do our food storage. Also, one of the things that we often discuss in our church meetings is that when there is a natural disaster, it is likely that we will need to share with others who are not prepared. This sharing is a natural outgrowth of our Christian beliefs.
posted by bove at 8:06 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I, too, am a Mormon. Not only are we preparing for a natural disaster, but also for personal disasters - loss of job, economic crunch, illness. This past year I struggled with depression, crippling headaches, anxiety, lots of fatigue, etc. which prevented me from being able to consistently get out to the grocery store. It felt nice being able to use what we stored to feed my family. I know of other families who have used their food storage due to job loss, death in the family, etc.

bove, above, is correct - that if there is a need, we will certainly happily share. We're not hoarding it for ourselves only.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:23 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks bove and Sassyfras, that covers what I wanted to know well.
posted by Ahab at 8:40 AM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: The LDS church also stockpiles food in Bishop's storehouses. The money for the food comes from fast offerings and church-owned agriculture, and is available to anyone who is in need, not just church members.

Interestingly, this article says that a lot of the need fell off with the start of World War II, but that may have just been relative to the Great Depression.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:44 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps I should reference a movement that has a religious link (though not exactly or necessarily a religious theoretical basis) which is sort of the opposite of "preparedness":


Although part of distributism is certainly thrift the overall emphasis is on enabling and encouraging society at large to be relatively autonomous and self-reliant through encouraging small ownership of production.

It doesn't surprise me too much that American rationalist Protestantism has come up with this sort of Joseph-in-Egypt thinking in its quest to literally re-live the Old Testament.
posted by KMH at 8:57 AM on October 12, 2010

Mod note: with all due respect, this thread is for answering the OP not your own personal soapbox for arguing with other commenters. Take that to email or metatalk please, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:06 AM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: This NPR segment may help shed some light on what Bishops' Store Houses are currently doing (well, current as of a year ago). The interviewer asks about non-LDS families receiving help from the food bank and is told that, in general, no one in need is turned away, though they may be encouraged to get involved with the Church.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:11 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks elsietheeel, part of what I was getting at was institutional mechanisms (eg church teachings or doctrine) for dealing with what I thought might be tensions between personal/family storage versus external need/jealousy/accusations of hording. And bove and Sassyfras answered that well. But it's clearly very relevant that there is also institutional storage and sharing with the wider community because that (as in the depression or WWII) would defuse much potential tension. Cheers!
posted by Ahab at 9:11 AM on October 12, 2010

Buying food and storing it in a time of surplus is not hoarding and would not fall under wartime rationing laws(such as wwII had). If you responsibly buy and store anything during a time of surplus you are actually reducing the demands during a shortage since your demand can go to zero (for as long as your stored surplus lasts)freeing up that much supply to be shared among those who didn't store a surplus. I pesonally try to keep between one and two months of food on hand as reasonable cheap cushion in case of shortage for any reason. Mostly dried and canned stuff like pasta, soups, crackers and such that can keep for a while and thing that is just prudent if you can afford it and have the space, but I also fully acknowledge that this is my own little paranoia and not likely to ever really be needed, but it gives me peace of mind and my (minor) storage of food is not likely to cost any one anything or hurt anyone

I too find Glenn Beck distasteful outlandishmarket but I don't think this particular aspect of the Mormon faith is likely to cause anyone anyone any harm and is likely to be quite a nice thing to have in a neighbor if it is ever needed. Actually that pretty much sums up my whole opinion of mormonism and really most christian sects-while I don't think I care to join I have found them to be pleasant neighbors and good citizens in the vast majority of cases.
posted by bartonlong at 9:13 AM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: And thanks Meg_Murry, I had no idea it was on that sort of scale.
posted by Ahab at 9:26 AM on October 12, 2010

Christian Biblical teaching underscores the importance of being a good steward of the things we have been given (money, food, the Earth, etc.). It also emphasizes the importance of caring for those in need.

Stockpiling food and then NOT sharing it with those in need would be a very unBiblical and unChristian thing to do.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:06 AM on October 12, 2010

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