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The worldwide eating disorder

Fr. Kevin Nadolski | Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Next Wednesday, Oct. 16, is World Food Day. Few know about it, and even fewer will probably mark it. Yet, this opportunity to raise awareness about and work to end the injustices around food, nutrition and hunger beckons us to act, especially as Catholics.
Pictures and statistics can stir and sicken us when we see starving children or read the numbers of hungry children and pregnant women in our country and beyond. I share just four facts that could move us to sadness, anger or deep compassion – maybe all three and more – with a growl that could match a hungry stomach:
$165 billion worth of food is thrown out in the US every year, or about 40 percent of our nation’s food supply. All of this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans (source: Reuters, 2013).
Hunger is number one on the list of the world’s top-10 health risks. It kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined (source: UNAIDS, 2010; WHO, 2011).
It costs just 25 cents per day to provide a child with all of the vitamins and nutrients he or she needs to grow up healthy (source: WFP, 2011).
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes (source: Bread for the World, 2013).
Begun by the United Nations in 1979, World Food Day seeks to coordinate efforts to end hunger and food-related crises throughout the world, which has obesity in some countries and starvation in others. If the world could be designed to be a table of five, one person would be overeating and obese, two others would be starving to death and the remaining two would be getting just enough. With no disrespect to those who struggle seriously with the medical condition, the human family has an eating disorder!
Having worked as a vocation director for seven years, I would travel to college campuses to present at discussions on religious life and the priesthood. I remember meeting a young man who was not interested in a religious vocation, as he attended with his friend who was. The casual observer came up to me and remarked, “Father, I’m not even Catholic, but you guys talk too much about sex and not about the poor.” I responded defensively, “I didn’t mention anything about sex.” He agreed and said, “But that’s what you Catholics are known for.”  
I hoped he was wrong, but that comment has stayed with me through the years. If we Catholics are known for anything, wouldn’t it be most appropriate that we are renown throughout the world for feeding? With our central sacrament as the Eucharist and with our tradition’s great reverence for the care of the Body and Blood of Christ, eating and feeding are not just meant for church worship. They are identifying behaviors we present to the world.
From feeding the poor around the globe and in our neighborhoods and welcoming those on the margins who hunger for acceptance, to lobbying national leaders and mobilizing support in the international community to end hunger, these matters must rise as our top priority. Additionally, the violence of these food-related issues slaps the peace we as Christians are called to cultivate.
As we listen to Pope Francis, I am reminded of that young man I met years ago: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things,” the Pope said. But, the pope has spoken both volubly and vehemently on serving the poor.
Perhaps a first step is to feed them – or, at least, to waste less food.

Fr. Kevin Nadolski, a priest with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, works for his community as director of
development and communications. He has served the church as a Catholic high school teacher, campus minister and
principal, as well as vocation and
formation director for the Oblates. He lives with his community in Wilmington, Del., and can be reached at knadolski@oblates.org
The views expressed in this
column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.