Food Waste: A Social & Eco-Justice Challenge

by Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley, Executive Director of GIPL
Last week found me “cooking down the pantry.” Usually by the end of the month, I’m a bit weary of the grocery lists and the meal prep. I have little energy to run one more errand to the grocery so I whole-heartedly accept the challenge to create meals my fairly patient family will eat from the food that already exists in our home. Like I said, it’s a challenge, and one that I like because it requires some pure creativity on my part. Google has definitely made it easier for me though. These days, you can type in the search bar a random list of key ingredients and a recipe will pop up that could prove useful in feeding a family.

But why bother with this challenge if my family can generally afford to go to the grocery any time we need to? I recognize it is a point of privilege to have access to so many supermarkets when food deserts plague too many of Atlanta’s neighborhoods (and too many other communities across Georgia). We also suffer in this country with too much food waste. We Americans can be so fickle about food. What might have become an impulse-buy at the grocery store, then lingers on the pantry or refrigerator shelf at home long past it’s supposed “expiration date.” Then, it only gets tossed out unopened, unused, and to live out the rest of its days in a landfill. But why is this a problem?
Today, it is estimated that 40% of landfill waste is food in our country.  Put that up against the problem of  food scarcity in the U.S. with 15% of American families as being food insecure – unsure of where and when their next meal might come. Additionally, the methane produced as food decomposes in a landfill is becoming a major cause of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet. This warming planet in turn makes it harder to grow crops in certain parts of the world contributing to more food secure neighbors across the globe. Do you see the cycle we are in? 
I still have great hope, despite these daunting statistics. Faith communities are well-equipped to address this challenge. Just about every house of worship I have ever visited in my life has some form of hunger ministry or feeding program that seeks to alleviate poverty. Not to mention, just about every house of worship I have ever visited also likes to eat together. We people of faith enjoy a good potluck or fellowship meal on a regular basis and our high-holy days are often our best feast days! All the world’s major religions also teach that love of neighbor comes through acts of justice. People of faith just need a a little nudge so as to connect the dots on food justice.
First, faith communities can consider their own food waste and make a commitment to reduce their own waste within their congregation. A national effort to inspire this eco-justice action is being highlighted later this month. Food Waste Weekend is September 21-23. Interfaith resources to reduce food waste that weekend and increase awareness about this significant social environmental problem can be found HERE.  Congregations are taking the pledge to participate in this national event and to make a lasting commitment to reduce food waste.
North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Atlanta will be participating in the Food Waste Weekend challenge by highlighting the issue by hosting a potluck luncheon after their Sunday worship service. Congregants are invited to bring a dish to share in a reusable container. During the event, participants will be invited to weigh their tables’ food waste at the end of the meal. The tables with the least amount of food waste win a special prize. A fun, engaging quiz on food & waste facts has been created to highlight the issue for church members. GIPL encourages your congregation to plan a Food Waste Weekend event any time this year. We welcome the chance to help you plan your event and worship service.