EPA reaches out to religious groups to combat food waste, environmental damage


National Public Radio reported on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new program, Food Steward’s Pledge, which is reaching out to unlikely allies – religious groups – to reduce food waste.

The alliance is inspired by a number of faith-connected reasons, but in particular care for the hungry (48 million U.S. citizens alone) and stewardship of the earth, and the report lists a number of faith-based efforts already addressing the problem of food waste, from traditions from Presbyterian to Jewish to Muslim.

“Getting out the message — particular what individual families can do … local community leaders are critical in doing that,” [EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy] Stanislaus tells us. And because faith-based leaders are often trusted advisers in their communities, “we thought they were a natural ally.”

Staislaus invokes Pope Francis’s call to protect the environment:

Food waste is closely tied to another growing concern for many faith-based organizations: climate change, a problem that disproportionately affects the world’s poor. Food waste is the single biggest material in U.S. landfills, according to the U.S. Agricultural Department. As this waste decomposes, it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Last summer, Pope Francis made headlines around the globe when he issued a papal encyclical urging action on climate change. That call helped energize new conversations throughout the Catholic church on environmental issues — including food waste, says Cecilia Calvo, who coordinates the environmental justice program for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She says more Catholics are asking, “Rather than contributing to a culture of waste, how can we be conscious of our choices?”

The NPR report lists the following religious and spiritual projects targeting food waste:

Evangelical Environmental Network
Creation Justice Ministries (National Council of Churches)
Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center (Presbyterian)
Hazon (Jewish)
Green Muslims
White Pony Express (Sufism Reoriented)

What other efforts can be added to this list? How can parishes, dioceses and other faith-connected entities get involved?

Photo from New York Hazon Facebook page; 2014 Philadelphia Jewish Food Festival

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