Pope Francis Calls for an End to Global Food Waste

Food waste, Francis said, ‘shows an arrogant disregard for everything that, in social and human terms, lies behind food production.’

Wasted food sits spoiling in a dumpster.
Wasted food sits spoiling in a dumpster. (photo: Shutterstock)

Pope Francis on Friday commended a U.N. agency’s efforts to end what the Holy Father called “the scourge of food loss and waste” across the planet, with the pope calling for a “radical paradigm shift” in how the world deals with wasted food.

Francis in his letter to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization told FAO Director Qu Dongyu that the “prevailing culture” has “led to the denaturalization of the value of food, reducing it to a mere commodity to be exchanged.”

The letter was sent on the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, established by the FAO in 2020. The U.N. says on its website that the day is meant to help “prioritize actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste.”

In his letter on Friday, Pope Francis said the world must “be clear about the urgency of a radical paradigm shift,” because “we can no longer limit ourselves to interpreting reality in terms of economics or insatiable profit.” 

“Food has a spiritual basis and its proper management implies the need to adopt ethical behavior,” he wrote. “When we talk about food, we must consider the good that more than any other ensures the satisfaction of the fundamental right to life and the basis of the dignified sustenance of each person.”

Food waste, Francis said, “shows an arrogant disregard for everything that, in social and human terms, lies behind food production.” 

“Throwing food away means failing to value the sacrifice, labor, transport, and energy costs involved in bringing quality food to the table,” he wrote. “It means disregarding all those who work hard every day in the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors to provide food that was lost or wasted and did not achieve its laudable purpose.”

The Pope said activists “cannot continue to cite world population growth as the cause of the earth's inability to feed everyone sufficiently.” The problems of global hunger, he claimed, lie with “the lack of concrete political will to redistribute the earth’s goods.”

Beyond investing financial resources and time to solve the food waste problem, Francis said the issue should be addressed by “strengthen[ing] our conviction that wasted food is an affront to the poor.”

“[I] would like to stress this,” Pope Francis added, “that the food we throw away is unjustly taken from the hands of those who lack it. From those who have a right to daily bread because of their inviolable human dignity.”

The Holy Father said he was “deeply grateful” to the U.N. and FAO for its food-related efforts. 

The FAO says on its website that the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for “halving per-capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.”

Those reductions, the agency said, bring “tangible benefits for people and planet.”