The Church in Indonesia is working toward eliminating food waste and hunger in the country by collecting and redirecting surplus food from different sources to those who need it.
Father Adrianus Suyadi, chairman of the Jakarta Archdiocese's Socio-Economic Development Commission said there are already three parishes that collect excess food and distribute them to the needy.
He said some other parishes are also working with Foodcycle Indonesia, a non-profit foundation that distributes surplus food items from sources such as wedding parties, bakeries, corporate lunches and supermarkets.
"We want the concern for food waste to manifest in the behavior of the people as it not only causes economic and environmental problems but also social issues," Father Suyadi added.
He felt religious leaders, community leaders, activists, and influencers could play a role in raising awareness about the 'evil of throwing away food scraps, while people go hungry and remain malnourished.
Data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry shows that Indonesia wasted 39.8 percent of its food in 20 years from 2000 to 2019. It is estimated that this food waste cost it an economic loss of 330 trillion rupiah (US$212 million) per year.
Some 26.16 million out of the nation's 270 million people remain poor, and though its national stunting or low height-for-age prevalence among children declined from 27.6 percent in 2019 to 24.4 in 2021, there still needs to be an improvement.
Indonesian Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, who is also president of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, says food waste is not only a matter of material loss, but also a "faith and moral" issue that Catholics need to address.
In a pastoral letter marking World Food Day on Oct. 16, he wrote that this year's theme, Don't Let Anyone Be Left Behind, should remind the faithful that "there are many of our brothers and sisters who are unable to catch up and enjoy the fruits of development and progress."
"What should we do, so that we can help the basic right to food for our needy brothers and sisters, and thereby raise the dignity of our brothers and sisters," the cardinal asked while inviting his flocks to eat an adequate and healthy diet and not to waste food.
He also invited Catholics in the nation to hold a solidarity movement to share healthy food for people in need.
"Businessmen in the food sector can collect unsold or excess food that is still fit for consumption and distribute it to our brothers and sisters in need."
Catholics in various ways may mobilize the surrounding community to plant food crops on vacant land and provide them for people who need or lack food as a movement of compassion, he said.
Agustinus Koten, a parishioner of the St Helena Parish in Tangerang, said he felt jolted when he heard the archbishop's message being read out at the Mass on October 16.
"We often don't think much while throwing away food. I feel this [collecting food for the needy] is very doable, of course with commitment," he said.