Several years ago I started a social enterprise to impact my community. My basic idea was to use wasted food to create value-added products and give jobs to women, mothers, who are facing various forms of crisis in their life.
As part of my job I get asked to speak at different events on the topic of civic engagement and business for social impact. As a part of my regular presentation I open with a quote from one of my favorite theologians, Basil the Great of the famous Cappadocians
When someone steals another persons clothes we call them a thief. So why would we is a different word for someone who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.
St. Basil the Great (329 – 379) from Homily on the Gospel of Luke
The idea of sharing neglected resources, especially food is something that I believe in with such conviction and I’m in the process of building my professional life around this practice. But why then is it so hard to get other Christians to view this issue the same way. To get my fellow believers to see that this is not only an issue that they should care about but also one that Jesus himself addressed in a pretty clear way.
Every year in the United States we waste 40% of all the food we produce. Put into money that is $161.6 billion (with a b). That’s enough money to pay for 37,000 people’s college education. That’s enough money to house 86,000 homeless persons for one year. Essentially every year every person in the US is throwing $1500 directly in the trash.
In terms of weight, the most recent estimate is that we waste 675,000,000,00 lbs of food every year. The average person eats 1,996 lbs of food in a year. This means that every year we roughly throw out enough food to feed 33 million hungry people for one year. There are 795 million people in the world who are hungry, so 33 million is nearly scratching the surface, but consider for s moment that 18 million Christians in the world live on the very edge of starvation. Meaning we at least have enough food to feed our people and a few million extra if only we could get it to them. The weight of the food that goes to waste is equivlant to the weight if 150,000 Statues of Liberty. I hate to tell you this but once it’s in the trash that stuff doesn’t magically go away. Rather the equivalent of 150,000 statues of liberty is sitting in our land fills. Approximately 25% of the overall mass of stuff rotting in our dumps was once edible food.
Now if all of these shocking statistics aren’t connecting with yo then let me put forward a Biblical argument that might get your attention. If you’re following our series on demonology you will know that the over arching theme of the series has been that, “to prove it is true, we should show Jesus taught it. ” As the one who created every fact, the total source of truth, if Jesus believed it then it is necessarily true. Therefore let us take a look at a little known part of a very well known Bible story; the feeding of the 5,000.
You may know the story but please let me set the stage for those who may not. In John chapter 6, Jesus was going about the the country side preaching and a crowd was following him. The disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd home to rest and get something to eat. Jesus asked them what food they had on hand. All that was available at the time was five loaves of bread and two small fish. Not being discouraged by the lack of food Jesus told the crowd to sit down in groups and he proceeded to feed the crowd of 5,000+ people with just that tiny amount of food that was on hand. Everyone had their fill, there were even leftovers.
Countless sermons have been preached on Jesus’ miraculous feeding of this group. The vast majority of these sermons focus on God’s ability to provide for use and to produce a great result from the scariest of resources. To many the main course if you will is the actual feeding. But I believe there are always important lessons to be gleaned (all puns intended) from the verses between the big events and for me what happened to the leftovers from this great feast is just as interesting as the miracle itself.
When they were all satisfied, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather up the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing is wasted.”John 6:12
What we see from this passage is that Jesus understood the value of food. It is a precious resource and one of God’s countless gifts to mankind. Our inherited commission from Adam to be a good steward of the world includes being a good steward of our food.
Food waste is an issue that I care about but really it never occurred to me that food waste might be an issue that Jesus cares about. But when we remember that Jesus taught us to ask God for our daily bread. Food is a gift from God and to abuse these gifts is to pay a disrespect to our provider.
So what is the take away from this writing? I hope that I’ve provided you with some food for thought (I know, I’m on fire today!) and hopefully you, dear reader, are able to see food waste as not just a social issue, but also a Biblical issue. I’d encourage you next time you find yourself with more food than you can eat, share some with your neighbor and maybe, just maybe good food will open the door for good news.
This has already gotten longer and probably preachier than I had intended. So rather than reinventing the wheel I’d just like to include a few links and resources about how to reduce food waste in your own home and use wasted food to bless your community. This list will be updated often, whenever I find something new or useful on this topic.
I leave you with a quote of my own, which usually closes out my typical presentation on this topic.
Give it away, don’t throw it away.Isaac Farley, 2018
Resources, Tips and Tricks
Top Tips for Reducing Food Waste
How to Start a Food Coop
Fallen Fruit will show you the unpicked fruit trees in your area
An article my company sponsored about expiration dates
See My Guide to Feeding the Homeless
Great book on the Topic
Stop Food Waste Day
National Geographic How Can Stop Food Waste
Creative ways to use left overs