Martha, Jesus's friend, is the patron saint of cooks. Her feast day is July 29. Sadly, cooking is a lost art and a forgotten pastime. By definition, a cook prepares food for eating. Is the processed dish that we place in the microwave "food?"  Michael Pollan, the food anthropologist, suggested that if it has more than five ingredients (recipes don't count), then it's not food. Is pressing the “start” button on a microwave "cooking?"

Food is life. Quality food is fresh, natural and nutritious. Simple food is built from scratch. It is baked, chopped, pureed, tasted, modified, seasoned and served. Simple food is grown, not manufactured. Industrially-grown food stuff – driven by convenience – requires more than five ingredients, most of which we can't pronounce.

Everything is connected, as Pope Francis emphasizes, and it does not require a stretch of the imagination to see how life is connected to food. Relying on high-calorie, low-cost food is the leading cause of obesity, a major stress on our healthcare system, and severely detrimental to the futures of the unborn and preschool children. In other words, not life.

We understand the relationship between being stewards of God’s creation and supporting production of and access to fresh, nutritious food.

When St. Paul teaches us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, which we are called to take care of, we understand the relationship between what we eat and drink, and honoring God.

As a people of life and for life, we also need to show care for all life and for the life of everyone. After ensuring that the unborn child is not aborted, nutritious food is the essential way to show care for toddlers and infants.

Improving women's nutrition during pregnancy safeguards their health and promises that their children have the best possible start in life. For example, eliminating malnutrition among expectant mothers would reduce disabilities among their infants by almost one third.

The cognitive and physical damage caused by malnutrition during the 1,000-day-window from pregnancy to the age of 2 is severe and often irreversible, with profound consequences for a child's future and the futures of communities and societies. For children under age 2, malnutrition can weaken the immune system, making them more susceptible to dying from common illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.

Everything is connected. Good nutrition, especially in early childhood, is an essential requirement for each world citizen to earn, learn, stay healthy, and achieve his or her lifetime potential. Without proper nutrition during these critical 1,000 days, children can be shorter, and have poor eyesight and weaker immune systems; achieve less in school and work, and earn less income. The right nutrition during the 1,000-day window can improve an individual’s educational achievement and earning potential.

Half of the babies born in the United States are enrolled in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Infants receiving WIC are less likely to be underweight, but are not at greater risk of being overweight. Society has given them a better chance to survive, thrive, and be alive.

Food is life. Quality, nutritious food saves lives and gives hope to young lives.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Father Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.