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Churches Help Government Reduce Food Waste, Greenhouse Gas Emissions


John Burger - published on 01/20/16

EPA enlists aid of "faith-based community" to redirect old food away from landfills and onto tables of the needy

The U.S. government has come up with a plan to help feed the hungry while reducing greenhouse gases. And it involves the cooperation of people of faith.

National Public Radio reported on an initiative of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to engage the “faith-based community” to redirect otherwise wasted food to the mouths of the hungry. It’s a brainchild of the EPA because, they say, food that winds up rotting in landfills emits oodles of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

The agency wants to cut food waste in half by 2030, and the new plan, called the Food Steward’s Pledge, is foreseen as contributing to that goal.

“We can make leaps and bounds in this process if we tackle this problem more systemically and bring a broader number of stakeholders to the table,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told NPR. Those who wish to alleviate hunger out of religious duty are natural “stakeholders.”

On its website, the EPA cites a U.N. Environment Program estimate, claiming that all the undernourished people of the world —  870 million — could be fed by wasted food.

Food is wasted, they say, not only in fancy restaurants and homes (remember how moms would always talk about “starving children in Africa?”) but even on farms.

So what to do? One thing the EPA wants us all to know is that just because a food item has reached the expiration date on its label doesn’t necessarily mean the item has gone bad and should be discarded.

“Much of the food wasted in the United States is not waste at all but actually safe, wholesome food that could potentially feed millions of Americans,” the EPA website advises. “Food donation is a simple way to redirect these valuable resources to ‘feed people — not landfills.’”

Secondly, the agency is inviting “faith organizations” to endorse or participate in its “Food Recovery Challenge.” Endorsers promote sustainable food management by educating organizations about the environmental consequences of wasted food and recruiting Food Recovery Challenge participants. And participants reduce wasted food through prevention, donation or composting.

NPR quoted, among other religious leaders, Cecilia Calvo, who coordinates the environmental justice program for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Calvo said that Pope Francis reenergized environmental conversations within the Catholic Church, including concern about food waste, when he issued the encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) last year.

The question for many, Calvo said, has become: “What does it mean to care for our common home?”

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