"To throw food away is to throw people away."

By Jelisa Castrodale
Updated November 13, 2019

Earlier this year, Pope Francis spoke to the leaders and volunteers of the European Food Banks Federation, and he thanked them for their efforts to both reduce food waste and to help people in need. "To throw food away is to throw people away," he said at the time. "It is scandalous today not to notice how precious food is as a good, and how so much good ends up so badly."

He repeated those sentiments in October—on World Food Day, no less—telling the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that it was a "cruel, unjust, and paradoxical reality" that food could be wasted or discarded, especially when there were so many who didn't have access to it, one of the most basic of human requirements.

Credit: ANDREAS SOLARO/Getty Images

Earlier this week, a two-day conference was held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican, where scientists, academics, economists and United Nations representatives met to address the worldwide problems of food waste, and to discuss how best to cut the amount in half within the next decade. And yes, Pope Francis quite literally gave his blessing to this multidisciplined endeavor as well.

"We call on our leaders, and on all of us, for deepened commitment to action toward halving food loss and waste by 2030—an achievable goal based on existing knowledge and technology," a statement from the conference, quoted by Reuters said.

Food loss and food waste are two different but equally serious problems; the former happens before food products reach supermarkets, restaurants and other retail outlets, while the latter occurs afterward. According to the FAO's most recent report—published about the time Pope Francis addressed the organization—14 percent of food worldwide is lost before it reaches the consumer.

"We note that many good actions to reduce [food loss and waste] are already in place in many countries, but so far they do not add up to global impact and joint learning," the Pontifical Academy of Sciences wrote. "Further, the most promising actions can be enhanced." At the conference, the Academy said that in order to reach its goal of cutting food waste in half, it would require better education, better-behaving consumers, and cooperation between governments, environmental organizations, and religious groups.

"Whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor," Pope Francis wrote in his second and most recent encyclical. If the Pope repeatedly addressing food waste doesn't get people's attention, who will?