From poverty to plenty: What the church can do about food waste

Jesus made quite clear his views on waste when he asked his disciples to 'gather up the pieces, let nothing be wasted', after generously feeding the 5,000 (John 6:12).

So why is a third of all the food produced in the world never eaten, especially when most of this waste is preventable?

TearfundThe Church of England will debate food waste today.

The Church of England General Synod will discuss this problem today, following on from Tearfund's Renew Our Food campaign, which has been asking Christians to pledge to cut down on the amount they waste from their homes and use their power as customers to call on supermarkets to halve their food waste by 2030.

Every day millions of Christians pray that God will 'give us today our daily bread' and yet at the same time we waste so much bread from UK homes that we could fill St Paul's Cathedral to the brim each month. How can that be right in a world where so many have so little?

Members of the synod will discuss this later and focus on people here in the UK who go hungry while tonnes of food is wasted. It's a serious issue that is finally getting the attention it deserves.

But an often neglected aspect of the debate is the direct impact on people living in poverty overseas.

UK food waste fuels climate change, with our food waste responsible for 20 million tonnes worth of greenhouse gas emissions each year. Tearfund sees first hand the impact of climate change on people in poverty, who are experiencing more floods, drought and less reliable rain leaving them struggling to feed themselves. The UN reported in September 2017 that global hunger is on the rise for the first time in a decade, with climate change one of the root causes for the rise.

By not tackling climate change, we are at risk of excluding the poorest from the harvest. As the synod motion paper argues, 'Our worship rings hollow if in our daily lives we despoil the world around us... and neglect our sisters and brothers who bear the image of the Creator.'

The very good news is that the church could be at the forefront of efforts to solve this problem. That's why Tearfund's Renew Our Food campaign is calling for action on both fronts – at home and in church, and in the places where we shop. If we eliminated food waste from UK households it would be the environmental equivalent of taking one in every four cars off our roads. And if our retailers took action too, the impact could be multiplied.

Almost 10,000 Christians have already pledged to do more and momentum is building, with three major supermarkets (Tesco, M&S and Aldi) so far committing to halve their food waste. If the Church of England encourages its 16,000 parishes to act too, the impact is more than we can even quantify.

Click here to take action and here to see how your church can get involved. Clare Lyons is a senior campaigner for Tearfund.

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