Archbishop Paglia: Food waste is a “source of immense shame”

by Ella

SANTIAGO, Chile — Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, at the helm of the Pontifical Academy for Life, recently took part in a significant discourse on food waste, terming it a “source of immense shame.” The event unfolded at the United Nations agency headquarters for Latin America in Santiago, Chile. Joining him were Chilean Minister of Agriculture Dr. Esteban Valenzuela and FAO Chief Economist Dr. Máximo Torero. The primary focus was on addressing the issue of food losses and waste within the context of food and nutrition security—an intersectoral challenge.

Archbishop Paglia’s engagement falls within his ongoing visit to Latin America, encompassing Chile and Argentina, wherein he delves into concerns related to social vulnerability. This mission spans from August 23 to August 31.


Highlighting Pope Francis’ powerful message to the European Federation of Food Banks on May 18, 2019, where the pontiff stated, “Discarding food means discarding people,” Archbishop Paglia initiated the dialogue. He reflected on the intolerable nature of this discarding of individuals, underscoring its reprehensible and shameful character. “We are responsible for it before God and history,” he asserted.


Focusing his address on the Latin American context, Archbishop Paglia brought to light the fact that the region’s contribution to global food waste stands at a seemingly modest 6%. Despite this figure, he redirected attention toward the people affected by this waste. “47 million undernourished people” in Latin America emerged as a stark reality, leading to tangible and distressing repercussions, evident even in places like Haiti.


Archbishop Paglia recalled his own encounters during visits to Port au Prince’s slums, where the paradox of excess and deprivation became starkly evident. “How is it possible to continue to look the other way, to endure, to do nothing?” he questioned.


A shift in perspective was advocated by Archbishop Paglia—a shift “from the waste of food to the waste of human lives.” He urged for a transformation in the perception of the issue, away from a solely economic and market-driven viewpoint. The economic foundations underlying food production and distribution, he argued, should serve the purpose of enhancing human lives and fostering equitable societies rather than being seen as ends in themselves.

The notion of solidarity also took center stage, with Archbishop Paglia invoking Pope Francis’ sentiments from his Food Day Message in 2021. The fight against hunger necessitates moving beyond the cold logic of the market and embracing the logic of solidarity. He emphasized that solidarity is not just a gesture of kindness; it encompasses the idea that all human experiences, even economic ones, contribute to the creation of a united human family—a theme underscored in the encyclical “Fratelli Tutti.”

Archbishop Paglia highlighted that the issue of food waste cannot be resolved solely through market mechanisms or statistical calculations. He pointed to the Gospel message and the biblical affirmation that everything on Earth is inherently good. This principle, embodied in Jesus’ teachings, extends to valuing and cherishing all individuals, irrespective of their circumstances.

Archbishop Paglia echoed Pope Francis’ stance that combating hunger inherently involves tackling waste. The notion of waste is intrinsically tied to discarding, while the Gospel teaches the importance of gathering and redistributing, rather than squandering.

The President of the Pontifical Academy for Life drew attention to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, emphasizing the call to embrace solidarity and eradicate marginalization.

As he concluded his discourse, Archbishop Paglia presented three practical areas of action. He stressed the necessity of collating accurate food waste data in Latin America to genuinely comprehend the extent of the issue. Furthermore, he urged all stakeholders within the food supply chain to collaborate in addressing this problem, emphasizing the interconnected nature of the challenge. Finally, he underscored the need for a cultural shift—one that treats food not just as a commodity but as an essential component of human dignity.

Archbishop Paglia cited a passage from the book of Isaiah that encapsulates the aspiration for a world where abundance is shared and accessible to all, echoing God’s dream for humanity.

This event served as an earnest plea for unity, responsibility, and a renewed perspective on food waste—one that seeks to eliminate not only the waste of nourishment but also the waste of human lives.



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