Pope Francis: Wasting food is like stealing from the poor

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis is calling on the world to stop wasting food. His words come as the United Nations launched an anti-food waste campaign to mark World Environment Day.

In a weekly speech at St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said consumerism has created a "culture of waste." He added, "Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.”

"I think the pope is correct, in that we do tend to waste food," said Utah homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson

Utah's agricultural department doesn't track how much food is wasted in the state, but certainly we do play a role in the bigger national picture. According to United Nations food statistics, 1.3 billion tons of food—a third of the world's total food production—are lost or wasted every year. The U.S. wastes 30 percent of its food.

In Utah, partnerships help reduce food waste. The Utah Food Bank has teamed up with grocery stores to pull nearly expired food quickly and donate it to shelters before it spoils.  Major Richard Green of the Salvation Army said they benefit from such programs.

"I think it's great idea for us to work hard together because it takes all of us working together to make storage and serving the homeless and needy most beneficial," he said.

Restaurants also donate to shelters. Subway served sandwiches to the homeless at Pioneer Park Wednesday morning.The Utah Health Department has strict rules on serving prepared food, so most restaurants donate uncooked food that's been kept in a refrigerator.

"If it's kept cold, hot, then cooled properly, it prevents illness," said Ron Lund with the Salt Lake County Health Department

Atkinson said that most people are contributing to the problem to some extent.

"I must admit that there is food wastage,” she said. “I'm guilty of it—we’re all guilty of it to some extent."

But, she says Utahns are increasingly aware of the problem and partnerships are proof,
even after donated food ends up at shelters.

"If they get too much food, what they will do is to call their partners and agencies and say, ‘Can you use these vegetables, these fruits?’ They don't want it to spoil and waste. We really believe in teamwork," Atkinson said.

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