Pope Francis gave a speech in St. Peter’s Square on United Nations World Environment Day declaring that the western world has adopted a “culture of waste.”
“This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition,” the Pope said Wednesday.
“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.”
Since Pope Francis took office in March, he has asked Catholics to practice austerity and defend the poor. He believes the focus on materialism meant to help the financial sector means human suffering goes ignored. “In this way people are discarded as if they were garbage,” he said.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry,” the Pope said.
He said it was “like” stealing from the hungry, not that it was. The Pope did not say whether he is advising the world’s 1.2 million Catholics to clean their plates or to give leftover food to the poor and hungry. Kids often heard, “You know there are starving people in [insert non-first-world country],” when they were being told to eat all of their food. What the Pope refers to as a culture of waste, clashes with the obesity epidemic. In America one-third of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Seventeen percent of children and adolescents are obese. That’s 12.5 million young people.
On the other hand, the United Nations’ food agency says that about 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted or lost each year. They estimate 870 million people are affected by hunger and at least 2 billion suffer from some kind of nutritional deficiency.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed bills to ban everything from cigarettes and trans fat to salt and huge sugary drinks. He has garnered a great deal of criticism for his measures, which many believe are unconstitutional. In fact, just last week Bloomberg’s office received letters containing the poison ricin posted from Shreveport, La. The anonymous letter said "If you take my guns, you should see what I'm going to do to you.” Bloomberg supports gun control and is the director of the national organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
But perhaps the mayor is onto to something when it comes to portion control. According to the UN, restaurants in the US throw away nine percent of their food because they serve diners such large portions that much of it is wasted. They report, much of the food wasted in the industrialized world is the result of consumers buying too much food that they can’t manage to eat it all.