I think Pope Francis is channeling my grandmother.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry,” he said yesterday.
“Clean your plate,” my grandmother told me, “think of those that do without.”
I am not, as some people do, blaming these injunctions to eat what I put on my plate for my weight problem. I know what causes that, and cleaning my plate has nothing to do with it. However, I did get a wee bit of the giggles when I first read Pope Francis’ comments.
Then I sobered up.
He’s right, you know.
We buy too much stuff. Not just food, but all sorts of stuff. I know perfectly healthy people who spend their days shopping. They are using the precious hours and minutes of their time in this life wandering up and down store aisles, looking at things they don’t need in order to buy and then not use them.
I have a relative who used to show up at my house with sacks of uneaten food every time she cleaned out her refrigerator. It was, most of it, half-spoiled, but she would bring it to me and expect me to take it. The question of why she bought it in the first place was never asked, much less answered.
How do we turn this useless excess that burdens our lives with too much weight, too many things and an awful, aching hunger for more stuff we don’t need into something that is useful and productive in this world? What is the mechanism for channeling our excess to those who are wracked by hunger and illness; who live without the adequate shelter or sanitary conditions?
According to an article in NewsMaxWorld, “about 1.3 billion metric tons of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted very year.”
The article goes on with the usual guilt statistics about the enormous portions served in restaurants, etc. But making people feel guilty doesn’t help. What we need is a means and a method for distributing food so that no one goes hungry. According to the United Nations, 870 million people suffer from hunger, while 2 billion suffer from at least some nutritional deficiency.
That’s about one third of the human race, which, if all these statistics are accurate, is roughly equivalent to the portion of food that is wasted.
I can not scrape the food off my plate and into the hungry mouths of the world. I have to put it down the garbage disposal. I can — and should, for my own sake — buy less. But even that would not get the food to those who need it.
It takes more than a curb on wastefulness among the well-fed to fix this problem. It requires a will and a determination to do it.
We’ve got plenty of food. We’re just not getting it to the people who don’t have any.
What would you do to end world hunger, if you were, say, a delegate to the United Nations?