Pope: Wasting food is tantamount to stealing from the poor (so how can you help?)
Says the pope, wasting food is no different from stealing from the hungry, during his Wednesday catechesis. How can you help? Lisa Suhay, through her volunteer activities, found mouths that needed feeding.
Pope Francis took a page out of the "Book of Mom" yesterday by denouncing consumerism and the “culture of waste” of modern economies when it comes to food during his catechesis Wednesday. Given the high volume of food thrown away by American businesses daily, this papal message could be manna from heaven for food banks.Skip to next paragraph
Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.
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My hope as a community volunteer is that the pope’s message will help food banks get more volunteers and create additional partnerships with businesses in order to perform what they call “food rescue.”
"Remember, however, that the food that is thrown away is as if we had stolen it from the table of the poor, from those who are hungry," according to his written remarks.
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The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization released data showing approximately 1.3 billion tons of food — one third of the world’s total food production — are lost or wasted every year. Furthermore, "The consumer share of food losses and waste can be very high in specific locations; for example, the amount of food wasted in one community in new york state in the united states of America in one year was sufficient to feed everyone in the community for 1.5 months and 60 percent of the losses occurred after the food was purchased by the consumer," the report states.
“Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value,” Francis said, comparing this attitude to the frugality of “our grandparents” who “used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food.”
While the pope is pointing the finger at us wasting food as individuals and families, I have found that individuals can’t hold a candle to the food waste taking place among businesses. In his speech, the pope also warned that a “culture of waste” chiding media by adding “some homeless people die of cold on the streets, it is not news. In contrast, a 10-point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy.”
The speech was part of the United Nations’ anti-food waste campaign to mark World Environment Day.
As a volunteer who works with others to feed local children, I wanted to shout, “Amen!” when I read the pope's speech.
It wasn’t until I founded an all-volunteer chess program for at-risk kids after school at our local community center four years ago that I became familiar with the hunger that pains our community’s children. The quest to relieve their suffering led me to discover the stunning amount of food being thrown away by businesses – much of it not rescued by food banks that are sorely in need of more volunteers to make the pick-ups.
Many kids here in Norfolk, Virg. go directly from school , where they eat lunch before noon in most cases, to their local community center for after school care programs so parents can work. In our city, these programs often allow parents to pick kids up as late as seven p.m. In areas we serve with our after school chess programs most of the kids live well below the poverty line and don’t eat anything after school because parents often can’t afford to pack snacks or extra sandwiches.
The other volunteers and I quickly realized that it is impossible to teach a hungry child. School teachers knew this long before we did.
A local preacher, the Rev. Arthur Devine hooked us up by explaining that all the supermarkets, bakeries, and eateries must, by state law, throw away all foods labeled as “fresh” at the end of each day. He advised me to just go to store managers and ask to be allowed to pickup the food that was to be wasted.