Faith Fights Food Waste provides free resources to learn, and then speak about the staggering amount of food that goes to waste. Help your congregation learn what their faith says about food waste with the resources on this page, which include faith specific calls to action, videos, and a Buddhist sermon.
- Learn more about food waste. Includes background info, links to helpful sites and videos.
- Download your sermon – yours to revise as needed.
- Select your calls to action – choose what will work in your community.
- Optionally download material for your religious school and your newsletter.
- Give your sermon.
- If you have a food pantry, make sure that it is signed up at AmpleHarvest.org to be able to receive excess locally grown fresh food. It’s free, and the food pantry does not need additional refrigeration or storage. It’s an excellent way to reduce food waste and help feed the hungry in your community.
This program is free because of our generous funders. Before you get started, we’d really appreciate it if you’d sign up and tell us a bit about yourself.
1. Learn about the problem of food waste.
A quick and a more in-depth document, links and videos
A First Look at Food Waste
This is the easier document
Food waste is a massive problem of multiple dimensions – both domestically and across the globe—and it impacts both developed countries and developing countries.
Estimates of the level of food waste are staggering. Globally, a recent report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimates that 30-50% of all food produced (between 1.2 and 2 billion tons) is lost before being consumed by humans.
Food Waste in America—A Current Conundrum
This is the more in-depth document
Picture this: You’re up early on a weekend morning at your favorite grocery store, looking to get a jump start on your weekend. Virtually the only person in the store a few minutes after six AM, you head back to the meat department to get the main course for a special meal that night. You immediately notice a store employee pulling multiple packs of high-grade meat off the shelves – ribs, filets, steaks and ground beef – and tossing them into a rolling cart. With a sinking feeling, you ask “Are you throwing all of that out?” “Yes,” he replies, “It’s past its sell-by date.” Stunned, you ask, “Don’t you donate any of that?” “No, we don’t do that, we don’t want anyone suing us,” he answers.
If you want to learn more…
EPA’s Sustainable Management of Food Learn the issue along with what businesses, institutions, organizations and individuals can do to reduce food waste
Further with Food: Center for Food Loss and Waste Solutions
Find and share information on this website about proven solutions and innovative new approaches to reducing food loss and waste
ReFed.com A data driven guide to business, government, funders and nonprofits to reduce food waste
NRDC White Paper How America is losing up to 40% of its food from farm to fork to landfill
WastedFood.com Why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it
USDA Report Why We Should Care About Food Loss
USDA Report Food Loss Information for Consumers
USDA Report The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses in the US (Business Oriented)
Garden Food Waste Recent report on the extent of food lost in America’s home and community gardens
National Geographic One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done
United Nations Report Global Food Losses and Food Waste (Gustavsson, et al.)
World Food Clock See how much food the world wastes every second.
End Food Waste.org A fun look at “ugly” produce.
|The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry | Save The Food | Ad Council||Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal|
|The environmental impacts of food waste||Gary Oppenheimer :AmpleHarvest.org — TEDx talk on ending food waste in 42 million home/community gardens|
2. Download your sermon – yours to revise as needed.
Sample Dharma Talk
Hunger and climate change.
Common sense teaches us that no one should be hungry and that we are supposed to help those who are. In Buddhism, laypeople, monks and nuns take vows to “save all sentient beings from suffering. Our Buddhist faith teaches us that we must not cause harm, and as stewards of the earth we are responsible to care for the earth by not harming it.
This weekend, these two concerns come together.
We know that people in our country, and around the world, go hungry. That there are hungry families in our country, in our community, and quite possibly, even in our sangha. Around the world, over 800 million people suffer from hunger each day and 21,000 people die daily from hunger (one person every four seconds) – despite the fact that it is well documented that there is more than enough food produced – healthy food, mind you – to feed everyone in the world.
How is it that in a world so blessed with abundant food, so many can’t count on this most basic blessing?
I call it food waste, although a better term would be wasted food. I’m not talking about rotting tomatoes or moldy bread – food that has to be thrown out because it’s not fit to eat.
I’m talking about food that you and I would be delighted to eat, but for some reason, never gets to us … or anyone else either.
- Fruits and vegetables that are shaped in a way that grocery stores think are ugly.
- Food that goes bad because it doesn’t get refrigerated quickly enough.
- Leftovers that are perfectly good to eat but that get thrown out.
- Food from restaurants with servings that are huge, and we forget to take what’s left home.
Think about the times that you have seen the clerk at the store throwing away perfectly good food because the next shipment just arrived. Think about the farmer who grew carrots that were as not perfectly straight as the store wanted them so they were left on the ground. Think about the restaurant that serves you portions so huge that you could never finish them. Think about the gardener who grew so many tomatoes that they wanted to give some away… but no one wanted them and the food pantry said that they could not take them. Think about the food in your kitchen that looks and smells perfectly good but because yesterday’s date is on the package, you threw it away.
Think of the waste. All of it.
Globally, we waste 2.9 trillion pounds of food every year, enough to feed the world’s 800 million hungry people twice over. Here in the US, we throw away enough food every single day to fill the Rose Bowl. Every year, the average US family wastes over 1,000 pounds of food.
In Zen and at many Buddhist retreats, we follow the practice of eating meals, orioki style, taking “just enough” food. Orioki synchronizes body and mind through brining mindfulness to how we eat. Perhaps we as a human family need to learn to follow orioki eating together.
Food waste isn’t just a hunger problem – it’s an environmental problem also. Think about the environmental impacts of all that wasted food.
- The water used to irrigate the crops was wasted.
- The fuel used in the tractor when it was harvested or shipped to the store was wasted.
- The electricity in the store that refrigerated the food was wasted.
- The jars and cans and boxes that held the food were wasted and then thrown away.
- Not to mention that all of the labor and love that went into growing or packaging or manufacturing the food was wasted.
And of course the food itself was wasted.
All of these wasted resources result in water getting wasted – as much water every year as flows through the Volga—Europe’s largest river.
And, food waste generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. According to National Geographic, “the energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of that wasted food, meanwhile, generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.
“If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China.”
More and more, people are realizing that we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions quickly if we want to prevent climate change from inflicting horrible suffering on millions of people. Climate change creates refugees. It drives poor farmers off their lands. It makes devastating storms even more powerful. And while it hurts everyone, it hurts the poor much worse. Climate change puts poverty on steroids.
And at the same time, we have hungry families. Families whose children don’t get enough to eat and whose young bodies and brains can’t develop properly because their stomachs are empty. Adults who are more vulnerable to disease because they are malnourished, or who lack the strength to work because they don’t have enough to eat.
We are taught to be grateful for the food we get yet we let it go to waste. We are taught to feed the hungry yet we are throwing perfectly good food away. We are taught to protect the earth, our common home, yet we cause harm, often without thinking about it.
We are hurting the people and the planet.
We can do better.
I’d like you to take a moment and think of a stranger you encounter that needs your help. They are out of a job, maybe out of a home. They come to you with their hand stretched out. Charity dictates that you help them. You reach into your pocket to find some coins you can spare to help them.
But as they approach closer, something is not right. Trailing behind them on the ground are coins that other people have given them – coins leaking from a hole in their pocket. You start to think that instead of giving them money that will also be lost as it falls to the ground, you should first start looking for a pin or maybe a needle and thread to help close the hole.
A fireman trying to put out a fire with a leaky hose would be smart to fix the leak first (preferably before its needed at a fire) so that every drop of water pumped into the hose can help extinguish the flames.
We—you and I—need to look at where there is a food hole in our lives so we can patch it up. We need to make sure that all of the food we have fills people’ stomachs – not landfills.
I started by saying that our teachings tell us that no one should be hungry and that we are supposed to help those who are. Often, these issues both feel so big, as if there’s nothing we can do about them. I’m here to say that this is wrong.
A response that all of us can make is to make sure that we use all of the food we have. All of it.
We are blessed with food and should not be wasting that blessing. Ever. For the sake of hungry people. For the sake of our planet.
How does a problem like this get addressed? Obviously, there are some things that governments and businesses need to do. Improved roads and refrigeration facilities so that produce can get to market without being bruised or spoiled. More attention to policies that prevent food from going wasted.
But these changes won’t solve the problem if we don’t do our part. There are some simple things that we all need to do so that we contribute to solving this problem.
- We can make the decision to buy just the food we need so we throw away less.
- We can accept that produce can be top quality and taste great even if it is a slightly odd shape
- We can ask for a take-home container for food that we don’t finish in restaurants.
- NOTE – PLEASE SEE THE CALLS TO ACTION SECTION FOR MORE OPTIONS
These may seem like small steps. But remember: the average US family wastes over 1,000 pounds of food each year. Are we, in this sangha, willing to commit to do better than that?
This weekend is the first Food Waste Weekend. At congregations of all faiths around the country, faith leaders are inviting their members to make a simple commitment not to waste food. By committing to using the food you purchase. By taking home food from restaurants that you don’t eat. By being willing to buy produce that’s healthy and perfectly good, but that may not look like it’s been custom-grown for the vegetable equivalent of the Miss America pageant.
Think of this as the return of the “clean plate club” – with a conscience!
I want to invite each of you to make a pledge to yourself, to the sangha, that you’ll do your best to make these simple commitments. Will you join in? I hope that you contemplate this, and that you will share in making this commitment.
Hungry people, and the sacred, good earth, depend on it.
Adapted by Irene Woodard, Shambhala Meditation Center of New York and GreenFaith Board Member
3. Calls to Action
There are 9 Calls to Action from which we suggest that you pick 2 or 3 to challenge your congregants to take. There is also a bonus Call to Action for your house of worship too!
If you are in a community (USA only) where people have home or community gardens, we strongly urge you to also include Call to Action #1 – donating excess garden produce.
If you want to print out the Calls to Action, we’ve included the links at the bottom of each one.
4. Optional Material
Infographics and posters
5. When you’re ready, give your sermon
Then encourage your congregation to select a “call to action” and then ask them the following week “how’s it going?”.
You might want to encourage your congregation to discuss
- how they feel about food waste
- what changes they will make in their life to reduce food waste
- how then think food waste affected them or their community in the past
- what changes they think your house of worship can do to set an example
- for those who are home/community gardeners, ask if they’d donate their excess bounty to a local food pantry
If your faith tradition allows for it, consider inviting the local media to cover the service. It is an excellent way of helping people who were unable to attend in person, to still learn about food waste.
6. Your community
If Your Temple Has a Food Pantry
It is totally free for a food pantry to sign-up with AmpleHarvest.org. This helps local home and community gardeners know where to donate excess fresh food from their garden – an easy first step towards helping to end food waste!
- Click here to see if your food pantry has already signed up with AmpleHarvest.org. If it has, great!
- If it has not yet signed up, then we suggest that you print out this flier and ask your food pantry manager to register ASAP. You can assure them that its free, they won’t need extra storage and they wont need more refrigeration.
- Lastly, print this flyer and encourage your congregants to post it around the community.