We recently wrote here about the necessity for medical schools to teach students how to accept and deal with obese patients. Now comes a similar but broader effort at divinity schools. Both initiatives are laudable, but we are particularly gratified to see Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity responding to a serious local problem — hunger.

Such efforts are especially important in this time of government cutbacks.

Obesity, health and wellness, poverty and hunger are all “food-related” issues that will be part of the university’s Food, Faith and Religious Leadership Initiative, the Journal’s Michael Hastings reported.

“Once you take food as your starting point, there’s a whole network, an interrelated web, of issues,” Gail O’Day, the dean of Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, told the Journal. “Food is really important in almost every religious tradition.”

The divinity school’s program is partly in response to a Food Research and Action Center study last year that listed Winston-Salem and the surrounding region as the worst in the country when it comes to a family’s ability to put food on the table. O’Day said the initiative also addresses her students’ interest in sustainability.

The program, which has hired Fred Bahnson, a Duke University theologian with expertise in food practices, as its director, is designed to help religious leaders deal with issues ranging from hunger and health and wellness to the revitalization of rural economies and access to food in urban areas. Bahnson co-founded Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, and is the co-author of “Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation.”

The initiative will include courses that will examine food-related issues in churches and nonprofit ministries, Bahnson told the Journal. In the spring, he will teach a course called “Field, Table, Communion: The Spirituality of Food.” More courses are being developed, and Bahnson wants to partner with organizations in the community, such as Forsyth Futures, a nonprofit organization that collects data about local food, and is working on ways to share the information with churches.

Bahnson also wants to conduct research on food and faith that churches can use in developing guidelines for stewardship. Another theme will be accepting the future of sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture.

“Part of this is taking care of God’s creation through the way we grow our food,” Bahnson said.

Taking care of God’s creation is also the over-arching theme of these important medical and religious educational initiatives. It behooves us all to pay respect to the earth and all that it gives us, and to improve our health and wellness.

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