By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis met the members and volunteers of the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) on Saturday, at the conclusion of its annual meeting in Rome.
The non-profit, charitable organization is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Food Bank of Italy. Food banks serve the dual purpose of reducing food waste and alleviating food insecurity, by creating a network to distribute unused foodstuffs to people in need.
Pope Francis thanked the Food Banks of Europe for providing food for the hungry and for reducing waste. “Fighting against the terrible scourge of hunger means also fighting waste,” he said.
The Holy Father said the food distributed by food banks is “an initial, tangible gesture of accompaniment on the path towards liberation”.
“You take what is thrown into the vicious cycle of waste,” he said, “and insert it into the ‘virtuous cycle’ of good use.”
A wasteful mentality
Pope Francis then reflected at length on the phenomenon of waste, saying it “reveals an indifference towards things and towards those who go without.”
Food banks, he said, call to mind how Jesus, after the distribution of the loaves to the crowds, had the disciples gather up what was left over, “so that nothing would go to waste.” (cf. Jn 6:12)
“To throw food away is to throw people away,” he noted. “It is scandalous today not to notice how precious food is as a good, and how so much good ends up so badly.”
The Pope said wasting good food is “a nasty habit”, which can occur even in charitable works when excessive bureaucracy or administrative costs get in the way of doing good.
Charitable works, he said, need an integrated vision, logistical know-how, and continuity in order to function well.
“The work you do,” the Pope told FEBA members and volunteers, “sends a clear message: it is not by seeking our own advantage that we build the future; the progress of all advances each time we walk with those who are left behind.”
Global economy in need of solidarity
Pope Francis said the global economy has a profound need of such solidarity, in order to be more humane and not “a reckless machine that crushes human beings.”
“How can we live comfortably when human persons are being reduced to numbers, when statistics replace human faces, when lives depend on stock markets?” he asked.
And the Pope offered some thoughts on a possible solution. Instability, returning to the past, or intervening with brute force cannot be the answer, he said.
Pope Francis urged all to support those working to promote solidarity and to “encourage models of growth based on social equality, on the dignity of human persons, on families, on the future of young people, and on respect for the environment.”
“Waste cannot be the last word bequeathed to posterity by the well-off few, while the majority of humanity remains silent.”