By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Hunger is a "true scandal" that threatens the life and dignity of millions of people while tons of food go to waste, Pope Francis said.
"We must face this injustice, this sin," the pope told more than 7,000 volunteers and coordinators of Italian food banks, along with representatives from food banks in other countries.
Pope Francis met the volunteers and coordinators Oct. 3 in the Vatican at a meeting sponsored by the Italian Food Bank Foundation, which assists the local food-distribution outlets and has a special focus on encouraging large-scale food producers to donate their excess or imperfect products to local food banks rather than destroy the products.
The pope praised their efforts "to fight the waste of food, recover it and distribute it to families in difficulty and to the poor."
Developing nations are not the only countries with a hunger problem, he said. Even the richest countries seem to struggle to feed their poor despite the world being able to produce enough food to feed everyone.
In the Gospel, the pope said, Jesus makes clear that people will be judged on how they responded to the hunger of others.
"We see in the Gospel that the Lord, when he realizes that the crowd who came to listen to him is hungry, does not ignore the problem and he doesn’t give a nice speech about fighting poverty," the pope said, "but he does something that leaves them all in awe: He takes the little that the disciples have, blesses it and multiplies the bread and fish."
While "we cannot do a miracle like Jesus," every person and every food bank — even those that struggle — can do at least a little something to fight hunger and to educate their families and communities about the need for solidarity, the pope said.
Pope Francis pleaded with the volunteers and coordinators to remember always that the people who come to them "are persons — not numbers — each with their burden of pain that sometimes seems impossible to carry."
"Look at their faces, look them in the eye, shake their hand, see in them the flesh of Christ and help them regain their dignity and get back on their feet," the pope said. "Be brothers and friends of the poor; let them know they are important in God’s eyes."