Nonprofit AmpleHarvest.org is reaching out to various faith communities in an attempt to bring them together to advocate for reducing food waste to feed the hungry with their Food Waste Weekend event.
The organization has created a sermon about food waste and hunger that has been translated into the teachings of six different faith groups including Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Unitarianism, and Islam. Clergy of these different faiths are asked to deliver the sermon on the same weekend, September 21 to September 23.
Clergy of all faiths are encouraged to take the pre-written sermons and make them their own to suit their congregations’ needs, and bring back information about food waste to their communities. The nonprofit has also provided resources for faith leaders including calls for members of the faith community to get in touch with their local food pantry to donate excess food.
“Over the past 11 years, an increasing number of food industry leaders, nonprofits, government officials and others have been tackling the issue of food waste in America. One critical group – the faith community – has been largely absent from the conversation, until now,” said the executive director of AmpleHarvest.org, Gary Oppenheimer.
“Since 70% of America’s food pantries are located in houses of worship, faith leaders are critical partners in helping get that excess food to hungry families,” Oppenheimer added. “We knew we should invite clergy of all religions to learn, and then speak from their own faith perspectives, about food waste.”
The sermons include relevant examples from different religious teachings about food waste. For instance, the Christian sermon calls for congregants to remember Bible passages relating to feeding the hungry, and in the Muslim khutbah relevant passages from the Qur’an are cited. There’s also a non-sectarian version that Oppenheimer said can be used by non-religious groups.
“Just because someone goes to a Jewish Temple on Friday and someone else goes to a Christian Church on Sunday, it doesn’t make the problem of hunger different,” Oppenheimer said, adding that it’s often simply a matter of finding the right way to relate food waste and hunger to a person’s religious teachings.
The initiative was previously piloted two times. But, Oppenheimer said he expects 2018 to be the real debut for Food Waste Weekend. So far, it’s been endorsed by the National Council of Churches.
The resources provided to faith leaders and congregants include calls to action for stopping food waste to fight hunger, including donating excess produce from home gardens to local food pantries, getting in contact with community gardens or supermarkets to help rescue wasted food, and using a grocery list to plan your meals in advance to keep yourself from buying food that will expire before you can eat it.
“It’s about what you can do in your own home,” Oppenheimer said.
The nonprofit’s goal for 2018’s Food Waste Weekend is 30,000 congregations, or one in 10 U.S. congregations. Oppenheimer said that AmpleHarvest.org believes that Food Waste Weekend is the first interfaith initiative of its kind.
“As far as we can tell, this may not be just the first [initiative] related to food, but the first in general” to address the needs of multiple faith communities, asking clergy of various religions to preach on the same topic at the same time, Oppenheimer said.
Oppenheimer said he’s interested in the potential “multiplier effect” of events like Food Waste Weekend.
“If I can get something started that then goes on to reach hundreds or thousands or millions of people, that’s great,” he said.
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