Pope: Listen to young people who are asking us to eradicate food waste

Marking the International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction on 29 September, Pope Francis sends a message to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in which he describes food waste as one of the most serious expressions of a throw-away society and an affront to the poor.

By Linda Bordoni

Those who search for food in the rubbish, food that “others contemptuously throw away,” are the poor and the needy of the world, said Pope Francis as he appealed to men and women of goodwill to stop squandering food, that has scandalously been reduced to a mere commodity.

In a message addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the “International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction”, the Pope noted that it is increasingly necessary to heed the cry of the young whom, he said, are “openly asking us to eradicate, once and for all, the evil effects that food loss and waste causes to people and the planet.”

The common root of waste and hunger

Describing the scourge of food loss and waste “as worrying and harmful as the tragedy of hunger that so cruelly afflicts humanity,” he said these two tragedies are “united by one underlying root: a dominant culture that has led to the distortion of the value of food, reducing it to a mere commodity.”

Added to this, he continued, is the general indifference towards the needy as well as the scant care given to creation, with the harmful consequences that this causes everywhere. 

These attitudes, the Pope said, which can be considered to be rooted in human selfishness, “on the one hand lead many to dispose of basic goods in an irresponsible and immoderate manner and, on the other hand, not to be indignant at seeing that there is still a multitude of people who do not have the basic necessities with which to live.”

“It is a selfishness that, among other things, translates into the current logic of profit that governs social relations and the irrational and voracious exploitation of natural resources,” he said.

“A selfishness that translates into the current logic of profit that governs social relations and the irrational and voracious exploitation of natural resources.”

Need for radical shift

The Holy Father called for a radical paradigm shift that would impel us to “no longer limit ourselves to reading reality in terms of economics or insatiable profit.”

He reiterated the need to never ignore the fact that food has a spiritual foundation and its proper management implies the need to adopt ethical behaviour.

More than any other “commodity” he said, food guarantees the fulfilment of the fundamental right to life and is at the basis of every person's dignified livelihood.

“Therefore, it must be treated with respect for its sacredness, which derives from the fundamental sacredness of every person, and which is recognised by many traditions, cultures and religions,” he said.           

Food guarantees life, the Pope continued, and must never be considered a problem.

The unjust logic of profit

He said that it is wrong to continue to point to the growth of the world's population as the cause of the earth's inability to feed everyone sufficiently, “because, in reality, the real reasons behind the proliferation of hunger in the world are the lack of a concrete political will to redistribute the earth's goods, so that everyone can benefit from what nature gives us, and the deplorable destruction of food for economic benefit.”

The Pope said that food waste is one of “the most serious forms of waste” and it shows “an arrogant disregard for all that, in social and human terms, lies behind food production.”

“Throwing food in the rubbish means not valuing the sacrifice, labour, transport and energy costs involved in bringing quality food to the table. It means despising those who toil every day in agriculture, industry and services to provide food that, by being lost or wasted, does not fulfil its laudable purpose,” he exclaimed.

The Pope said the way to put an end to the loss and waste of food is by investing financial resources, uniting wills, and moving “from mere declarations to far-sighted and incisive decision-making.”

“Above all, it is imperative to strengthen the conviction that food thrown away is an affront to the poor,” he said.

“Food thrown away is an affront to the poor.”

He called for the cultivation of a  sense of justice towards the needy that must drive each and every one of us to a categorical change of mindset and conduct.

“The food we throw in the rubbish we unjustly snatch from the hands of those who are deprived of it,” he continued, explaining that “The abundance of some must make up for the lack of others” and that “Development must  be closely linked to sobriety of life.”

One universal family

Finally, Pope Francis upheld the need to revive the awareness of our common belonging to the one universal human family. “He who goes to sleep on an empty stomach is our brother,” he said, “sharing with him what we have is an imperative both of justice and of that fraternal solidarity born of family relationships.”

The Pope concluded with prayers for the United Nations agency whose mandate is to fight hunger  and that “the family of nations may once again become true, that space where concord, generosity and loving mutual help among brothers prevail.”

29 September 2023, 15:25