Pope: Wasting food is stealing from the poor

Paterno Esmaquel II
Pope Francis blasts a 'culture of waste' that neglects the hungry

NO LEFTOVERS. Pope Francis says wasting food is like stealing from the poor. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – It used to come from our parents’ lips. Now, it’s an appeal from the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics: No leftovers, please.

Pope Francis on Wednesday, June 5, blasted a “culture of waste,” calling it “more despicable” because it neglects the plight of the hungry. He said this in his weekly general audience, which coincided with World Environment Day.

“Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters,” the Pope said.

“We should all remember, however, that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.” 

Nearly 870 million people around the world suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to the latest data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (Read: Solving the world’s ‘greatest solvable’ problem: Hunger)

Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food end up wasted. (Watch Rappler’s video report below)

‘Person dying not news’

Named after a 12th-century friar who left his riches, Pope Francis also deplored how poverty has become “the norm.” He took a jab at how the media portrays the poor.

He said: “If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that’s not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a 10-point drop on the stock markets of some cities is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop 10 points it is a tragedy!”

“Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash,” said Francis, attributing this problem to the “dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics.”

The Pope explained: “God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’”

CHARISMATIC PONTIFF. Before his homily about care for creation, Pope Francis stops to kiss a sick man during his inaugural procession. Photo from Vatican Radio's Facebook page

Francis has made uplifting the poor a key theme of his papacy.

In May, the Pope slammed the “fetishism of money” while millions remain displaced, abused, and even trafficked. He also blasted slave labor in Bangladesh.

In a 2010 book that was recently reprinted under the title Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words, Francis, who was then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, also stressed helping the poor as a Christian duty.

Bergoglio echoed a biblical message about Judgment Day, when Jesus will condemn those who refused to help the poor.

“And He will also condemn us for the sin of blaming the government for poverty, when it is a responsibility we must all assume to the extent we can,” the future Pope Francis said. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.