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Coming to a pulpit near you: Food Waste Weekend


Preachers invited to address wasted food, malnutrition and hunger this weekend

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteers have begun their year of service. Clockwise from left are Sierra Mink, Rebekah Woodburn and Mara Chamlee. (Photo by Cecilia Roseo)

LOUISVILLE — During Food Waste Weekend Sept. 6–8, clergy of all faiths are encouraged share a sermon about the growing problem of food waste and hunger in America. If this weekend is not convenient, congregations can choose any Sunday of the year to focus a sermon on food waste and hunger.

One out of every six Americans is classified as food insecure, which is a conundrum because Americas throw away some 11.5 billion pounds of garden produce each year — enough to feed 28 million people.

This year marks the third consecutive year for the Food Waste Weekend public engagement event. The program asks faith communities to tackle the problem of food waste together through sermons and resources  to nourish the hungry and help heal the planet by reducing greenhouse gases.

The Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer (BFJYAV) Program has prepared a Food Waste Weekend liturgy suggestion for Presbyterian congregations. Pastors can choose what they want to preach about and perhaps choose one or two food waste challenges for their congregations to explore. It’s helpful if congregations can register so their efforts are counted in Food Waste Weekend tallies. The goal is to engage at least 10 percent of clergy in the U.S. in this endeavor.

One simple call to action is ensuring food pantries in all 50 states are registered through the nonprofit to receive a sustainable and recurring supply of freshly harvested, local produce from area growers — at no cost to the donor or the food pantry. Currently 8,552 food pantries in the U.S. are registered to receive excess garden produce through this program. According to the website, receives support from Google Inc., the White House, the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Council of Churches, the National Gardening Association, Feeding America and its member food banks, Garden Writers of America, as well as numerous faith organizations.

It’s clear that at least 40% of the food grown in America, worth about $161 billion, is not consumed because it is never harvested, lost in processing, thrown away in restaurants and homes, or ends up in landfills. A new report “Back to Basics: How to End Hunger by 2030,” published by the nonprofit Bread for the World Institute, a Christian advocacy group supported by the Presbyterian Hunger Program, states that although ending hunger by 2030 may sound “audacious,” it “is possible” if everyone — people, governments and private businesses — plays a pivotal role.

In 2019–20, three Young Adult Volunteers — Mara Chamlee, Sierra Mink and Rebekah Woodburn — are learning practical ways to apply their faith to how they eat and shop as well as promote food justice as they live and work in the Greater Boston area. The Boston Food Justice YAV Program (BFJYAV), a ministry of the Presbytery of Boston, was launched with support of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Each BFJYAV is matched with a Boston-area Presbyterian church and a partnering organization (food pantry, day shelter, garden or farm).

Chamlee, from upstate South Carolina, serves with Boston Faith & Justice Network and Better Future Project’s CREW (Communities Responding to Extreme Weather), while attending Church of the Covenant in Boston.

Mink, from Novato, Calif., serves with  Eliot Presbyterian Church in Lowell, Mass., and a community center, Living Waters Center of Hope.

Woodburn, from Dublin Ga., serves with Hartford Street Presbyterian Church in Natick, Mass., and A Place To Turn, an emergency choice food pantry.

During Food Waste Weekend, each BFJYAV will be commissioned by their home church on Sunday in the Presbytery of Boston. They also will join the congregation in accepting a food waste challenge for the week. On Sept. 15, the YAVs will take part in a BFJYAV open house and a celebration of meeting the $15,000 Trustees Match to support the BFJYAV ministry.

Mary Frances Yielding was a Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer in 2017-18. (Contributed photo)

Congregations across the New England presbyteries have been invited to participate in Food Waste Weekend as an act of solidarity and welcome for the Boston Food Justice YAVs.

“Whatever concerns your congregation, there’s a window into it through food justice,” said Sarah Goodloe, coordinator of the Boston Food Justice YAV site, “whether it’s spiritual community, systemic racism, carbon footprints, labor laws, food access, criminal justice reform, child hunger, immigration, unemployment, farming, health care, climate change, education, homelessness or another issue.”

Goodloe said she initially heard about Food Waste Weekend at an event in downtown Boston where Gary Oppenheimer, founder and executive director of Ample Harvest spoke. At this event, she learned that 70% of food pantries are in houses of worship of some kind, yet there is very little preached about food waste in America. This didn’t make a lot of sense to Oppenheimer, since most faith traditions all say something about stewardship and care of the Earth.

“They may come at it in different ways,” Goodloe said, “but the actions and responsibility of taking care of the Earth are pretty much within the morals of most faith traditions.” Food Waste Weekend raises awareness about the problem, and maybe actual change can happen because of it, she said.

Learn more about the ministries of  BFJYAV Program and the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Make a gift online to support the work of the 2019-20 BFJYAVs.

Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing make the work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program possible.

YAV application season opens Nov. 1
Are you discerning God’s call? To learn more about the Young Adult Volunteer program, visit:

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