Feeding people, not landfills
As Catholics, we have a moral and spiritual obligation to care for the gift of God’s creation and to insure we cooperate in protecting it. The challenge of the proper management of the earth’s resources has implications for all Catholics as we integrate church teaching into all aspects of our lives.
Congress has convened a Food Waste Caucus to address a problem that has far-reaching consequences for food security, the use of resources and the financial bottom lines of public and private organizations.
It’s estimated that in the United States we waste over one-third of the food grown, processed, transported, prepared and purchased for our consumption. The problem doesn’t end there, though, as unconsumed food must again be collected, transported and processed, compounding the error and adding to the great expense of producing food destined for landfills. To illustrate the dimensions of the challenge, in 2010 the USDA estimated that of the 430 billion pounds of food produced and available for human consumption, 133 billion pounds was never eaten. Further, in 2014 alone, of the more than 38 million tons of food waste generated, only a little more than 5% was diverted from landfills or incinerators.
Public and private entities are ultimately charged for growing, processing, transporting and preparing all of the food that is served (as well as the charge for serving it), regardless of whether it is thrown away. That reality adds considerable net expense to the portion that is actually consumed. In the example illustrated earlier, the charge for just the actual food wasted in 2010, excluding packaging, was estimated at $161 billion dollars.
The cost of maintaining ever-expanding landfills—of which food is the major component, more than any other material in everyday trash—extends to the environment. Wasted food rots and creates methane gas, and the method of managing landfills often prevents nutrients from re-entering the soil. Expending the water, fuel, pesticides and herbicides, fertilizer and soil to produce the food that is never consumed places a substantial burden on limited resources.
The fact our economy produces such abundance is a blessing, but it also means Catholics have a unique responsibility to help mitigate the potential problem of waste and food loss. Our care for creation should reflect our reverence and gratitude for the gift of such a treasure, and insure our stewardship will make it possible future generations can claim the same.
For more information on public programs addressing the issue, go to https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-foodand