What does Scripture say about food waste?

Is there anything in the Scripture that addresses the issue of food waste?

Millions of people throughout the world still struggle with hunger, making food waste a major issue on a global scale. Almost 40% of the nation’s annual food supply is lost or wasted in the United States. That’s the equivalent of throwing out almost $400 billion worth of food annually, or approximately 130 billion meals. It’s wrong to waste food or any other resource God has provided for us.

Food provided by God

The Children of Israel, on their way to the Promised Land from Egypt, passed through the Wilderness of Sin, which is located between the cities of Elim and Sinai. There, people started complaining to Moses that they weren’t getting enough to eat and missed the leftovers they got from the Egyptians. While Moses was praying, God said, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:3). The Israelites’ daily “bread,” which they termed “manna,” emerged each morning. The Israelites were instructed by Moses to “collect as much as you need. “For every individual in your tent, take an omer” (Exodus 16:16). People were instructed to take only what they needed to sustain their households. While it doesn’t say that wasting food is wrong, this does promote the principle of just taking what is necessary. Taking exactly what you need from a grocery store is a no-brainer for waste prevention.

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In which Jesus Provides Food for 5,000 People

When He miraculously fed 5,000 people, Jesus spoke directly to the issue of food waste in the New Testament. All those who had come to eat were satisfied when Jesus multiplied their five barley loaves and two tiny fish into a feast for thousands. Afterwards, Jesus instructed, “Collect the scraps that are left over. It’s important that nothing be wasted (John 6:12). These huge leftovers “filled twelve buckets” (John 6:13). It’s unclear what will happen to the leftovers, but Jesus commanded that nothing be wasted. In all likelihood, Jesus’ goal was to provide food for more people who needed it. Jesus was instructing His disciples in the art of resource allocation, among other things. It is not right to throw away the resources God has provided for us.

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Good Works

In Matthew 6:3, Jesus emphasized the value of helping those in need. He especially praised those who gave food to the hungry (Matthew 25:35). Don’t expect us to feed the hungry with trash. It’s fair to say that wasteful eating is sinful since it denies the hungry the nourishment we could have provided for them. Throwing away edible food eliminates a direct way to benefit others.

Many verses in the Bible praise generous attitudes. Don’t refuse a borrower and give to the one who begs (Matthew 5:42). Rich people are expected to “give freely and generously” (1 Timothy 6:18). Also also Ephesians 4:28 and Romans 12:8. It would be wasteful to feed people for free if we were throwing any of it away. The Christian principle of charity is incompatible with the wasteful use of any resource that may be put to better use by someone else.

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