By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis has called for everyone to reorient our lifestyles in a conscious, responsible manner to ensure that no one is left behind and everyone receives food, both in quantity and quality.
The Holy Father made this call in a message addressed to Mr. Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on the occasion of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, celebrated annually on 29 September to promote collective action to reduce food loss and waste.
“Both the loss and the waste of food are truly deplorable events because they divide humanity between those who have too much and those who lack the essentials,” said the Pope, “because they increase inequalities, generate injustice and deny the poor what they need to live in dignity.”
The throwaway culture
Pope Francis said that when food is not properly used, either because it is lost or wasted, we are at the mercy of the “throwaway culture”, which translates into a “disinterest in what has a fundamental value or attachment to what lacks importance.”
He stressed that it is “shameful and worrying” that multitudes of people do not have access to adequate food or the means to provide it for themselves – a basic and fundamental right of every person – while food is thrown away in the garbage or spoiled due to the absence of resources to purchase it.
Increasing number of hungry people
Pope Francis pointed at the latest data from the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, which revealed that in the last year, the number of hungry people in the world increased significantly due to the multiple crises facing humanity.
In this light, he reiterated his appeal to “gather in order to redistribute, not produce to waste”, insisting that “to throw food away means to throw people away.”
He called on the international community to put an end to the lamentable “paradox of abundance,” denounced by St. John Paul II in his 1992 address at the opening of the International Conference on Nutrition.
The Pope noted this concerns social justice, in the way in which “the management of resources and the distribution of wealth is regulated”, and highlighted the scandal of large producers who encourage compulsive consumerism to enrich themselves without considering the real needs of human beings.
“We must stop treating food, which is a fundamental good for all, as a bargaining chip for a few,” Pope Francis insisted.
Care of our common home
The Holy Father went on to point at the added harmful effect of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and by extension, to climate change, caused by food waste or loss.
He noted that the earth that we exploit groans because of consumerist excesses and “begs us to stop mistreating and destroying it.”
He further urged everyone to consider young people, who are asking us to think of them, “to sharpen our eyes and enlarge our hearts, giving the best of ourselves to care for the common home that came from God’s hands which we must safeguard, responding with good works to the evil we do to it.”
Concluding his message, the Pope invited everyone, as a matter of importance, not to be satisfied with “rhetorical exercises which end up in declarations that later fail to be carried out due to forgetfulness, pettiness or greed.”
Here, he reiterated the urgency for States, multinational companies, associations, and individuals to “respond effectively and honestly to the heart-rending cry of the hungry who are demanding justice,” and to reorient our lifestyles so that no one is left behind and everyone receives the food they need.
“We owe it to our loved ones, to future generations and to those who are stricken by economic and existential misery,” the Pope said.