Lent starts on March 2nd with Ash Wednesday. Our parish’s Environmental Concerns Committee invites all parishioners to participate in their Lenten Challenge, which is focused on the problem of food waste and how we can each be part of the solution. Each week, the committee is including an article in the Sunday bulletin with education, resources, and spiritual connections on how a focus on food waste can be part of YOUR Lenten practice. Check back here each week for the articles and links!
First Week of Lent: March 5-6
Traditionally, Lent in the Catholic Church focuses our attention on three things; Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. We can grow in our faith through fasting which can encompass many things, from abstaining from certain foods to making choices about how much and what we eat. The Environmental Concerns Committee (ECC) would like you to focus this Lent on food waste in our modern society. Our focus on food waste is symbolic of fasting.
You might be shocked to know that 30 to 40% of edible food in the world is thrown away every year, about 1.3 billion pounds or $161 million worth of food.* Furthermore, the environment suffers from wasted food thrown into landfills. If food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—at approximately 28 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, methane is a potent greenhouse gas.** It’s also estimated that industrial countries like the US and northern Europe produce 150-200% more food than is needed by their people. We trash one third of tillable land, wasting water and other natural resources to produce food that no one eats.***
The ECC at Risen Savior invites you to participate in our Lenten Challenge this year. Every week, we will provide information about food waste and ways you as individuals or as a family can reduce food waste. Thankfully, there are plenty of actions we can take at the consumer level to make a significant difference which include: shopping smarter -buy what you will consume not more than you need; think smaller portions when you visit a restaurant (“all you can eat” invites waste); support businesses that donate to those in need, like Second Harvest; freeze food for another time; and composting or organic recycling to keep inedible scraps out of landfills. When we give thought to our food, we can all take small steps to curb our food waste.
This week, your challenge will be to watch the film, “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” either on You Tube or at an in-person showing at Risen Savior on March 7, 6:30-8:30 pm in the Bays. This powerful film helps us reflect on the abundance of food available to us and how it is wasted in our society as a result of marketing, production, manufacturing, distribution or consumer choices. Let us bear in mind the miracle of the loaves and fishes where Jesus instructed his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” (John 6:12)
***Movie: “Just Eat it”
Second Week of Lent: March 12-13
First coined by Benjamin Franklin, “Waste not, want not,” is a maxim that reminds us that what we preserve today will help preserve us tomorrow.
According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, Americans waste more than $218 billion each year on food, with dairy products being the food item we toss out the most. The average American family of 4 throws out food worth $1,600/year! More than 80% of Americans discard perfectly good food because they misunderstand expiration labels.
The FDA is trying to minimize food waste by providing guidance to manufacturers about how to write labels and guidance to consumers about how to interpret them properly.
A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is NOT a safety date. Consumers misunderstand this label to mean the food is not safe to eat or good after that date, which is not true.
“Best by” or “Use by” dates are for the consumer. These indicate peak quality and freshness, but do not mean the food is unsafe to eat after that date. A food which doesn’t show signs of spoilage after the specified date can still be eaten. Remember that food manufacturers have an incentive for you to only consume products at their “peak quality” because then you will buy their products more often. (The only food that is federally required to have a true “expiration date” is infant formula!)
Some tips for proper storage of food can reduce food waste.
- Plan meals ahead and buy only what you need or can use in a reasonable amount of time.
- Use your freezer to store food for future use or to preserve food you cannot use right now.
- Make soups, smoothies or baked goods using fruits and vegetables that are past their prime.
- Have a “Use First” bin in your refrigerator to remind you to eat older items first.
- Refer to our handouts #1 and #2 below for other tips on how to store food for maximum benefit.
Handout # 2: Track What You Toss
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10
Third Week of Lent: March 19-20
Lent is a time for us to reflect on our lives in many ways and repent for actions or thoughts that take us further away from God. We can reflect on the abundance of food available to us, and how we waste food without much thought. We can reflect on how all kinds of waste leads to the degradation of the environment and is preventable. We can reflect on our blessings and be mindful of how our lifestyle impacts other humans and our planet.
This Sunday, the Knights of Columbus are sponsoring a pancake breakfast after each Mass. Risen Savior has already taken many steps toward plastic reduction and recycling, especially during events where food is served. For example, we provide compostable single use items (paper towels, napkins, plates, trash bags, hot and cold cups and eating utensils). The kitchen composts food scraps after all events. Risen Savior works with a Dakota County recycling incentive to increase recycling and decrease trash.
So, when you go downstairs for the pancake breakfast, please be mindful of the ways to discard all types of waste, and follow the signs to place all waste in the appropriate containers. Members of the ECC will be available to guide you to the correct receptacles. Do your part by helping to reduce and reclaim waste today.
In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis inspires us with these words; “Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.” (#211)
Fourth Week of Lent: March 26-27
From Pope Francis in “Laudato Si:”
“We know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor”.
“We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Catholic Social Teaching reminds us that we must strive for the common good, not just our personal good. Are we aware of the abundance of food available to us and realize that not everyone shares in the abundance? Waste of our precious resources is preventable, ignores those in need, and promotes further degradation of our planet. During Lent, let us be mindful of the blessings we have and strive to share those blessings with those less fortunate.
To that end, there are ways to plan for less food waste in your home. See our handouts #3 and #4 for ways to inventory food you already have on hand and hints for meal planning to use what’s already available and making a list of what you actually need that week. Having a well-thought-out grocery list also cuts shopping time, saves you money and eliminates impulse buys.
Also, let us remember our needy brothers and sisters when we shop for our families this week. Risen Savior has monthly “Food on the First” food drives for Dakota County “360” Communities. You can bring food donations to church next weekend or write a check as a donation specifically for the food shelf.
Risen Savior is a member of the InterFaith Creation Care South Metro organization, a coalition of churches that strives to protect God’s Creation. Their mission statement says, “We believe in a world where humanity lives in balanced relationship with all of God’s creation, valuing and preserving our environment for the health and prosperity of future generations. We accept the responsibility to be good stewards, recognizing that actions that benefit some have consequences for all.” Their website is at: https://iccsmtc.blogspot.com/p/church.html
Fifth Week of Lent: April 2-3
Most of us are aware of the recycling efforts of our communities, and we try to avoid single use plastic items. Did you know that food can also be recycled? One-third of what is being thrown in the trash is food waste and could be composted instead. That’s nearly nine pounds per household per week! Instead of trashing it, turn food scraps into rich compost— a soil additive that increases the nutrients in soil, reduces erosion and decreases the need for chemical fertilizers.
In Dakota County, it’s free and easy to start composting food waste. Refer to our handouts # 5 and #6 (linked below) to get started on composting food waste in your household. Or, go to www.dakotacounty.us and search “organics” to get a free kit to start composting food waste at home. In the Commons this weekend, you can play a “Spin the Wheel” game about food waste. There will be prizes! Also, pick up a free container cling to use at home to let everyone in the house know what’s compostable and what’s not.
From Pope Francis in “Laudato Si:”
“(Concern for others and the natural environment attunes us to) the moral imperative of assessing the impact of our every action and personal decision on the world around us. If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society. An awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits.”