Food Fasting for a Cause: Ash Wednesday

By Ronica Lu

According to a study by the United Nations World Food Program, over one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted, mostly in developed countries. The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) is leading an Ash Wednesday food fast campaign to end the cycle of food waste. They are inviting all to participate in its “Fast for Life” campaign to reflect on consumption patterns and global food waste.

The 1.3 billion tons of food thrown away each year by wealthy nations would be enough to feed the 1 billion who go hungry. (Photo credit:

The Lenten season this year starts with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd. On Ash Wednesday and during Lent, the EAA is encouraging consumers to find ways to increase their awareness and take action in changing the ways they buy and consume food.

One way to avoid wasted food is to be aware of the different food labels and what they mean: Sell By,” for example, is more of a guide for the store or seller than consumers, letting stores know how long they can display products for sale; “Best Before” or “Best if Used By,” refers to how the quality or flavor of the food is affected the longer it sits on store shelves; and “Use By” or “Expiration Date”  indicates that eating or consuming the food after the date is not recommended

In addition, EAA is encouraging to consumers to consider doing the following:

  • A food fast on February 22 to show solidarity and commitment for a more efficient food production system and consumption patterns.
  • Create a “waste tracker” sheet for consumers to post on refrigerators, helping them keep track of how much food is thrown away each day. At the end of each week, EAA encourages consumers to evaluate the amount of food wasted and consider alternatives, including composting.
  • Revise weekly shopping lists. For many consumers, their eyes are bigger than their stomachs. EAA encourages shoppers to think of what they already have at home and how it can be used, before going to the store to get more food.
  • Teach friends, family and the community how to make ‘recipes from waste’ at school groups or local functions.
  • Be a vehicle of knowledge to teach people the difference between sell by date, best before, and expiration date labels.
  • Pick up discarded packaged food and produce from your local grocer and host a “Cooking from Scraps” night at a community center or club.
  • Host a cooking competition with local chefs and restaurants to see what creative dishes can be made with food leftovers.
  • Support farmer cooperatives to help smallholder farmers with their marketing, efficiency, grant money, and financial fundraising.
  • Spark a discussion with local or state government representatives to advocate for infrastructure and transportation changes for better waste management.

Do you have any ideas of your own to curb food waste on Ash Wednesday or the Lenten season?  Use your creativity in adapting them to your local community or special situation!

Ronica Lu is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about reducing our food waste visit: Love Food Hate Waste, London Chefs Campaign to Reduce Food Waste, and 10 Tips for Eliminating Food Waste.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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