Is throwing food away a sin?

So, my question is not what would you do, but whether throwing away food is a sin. There are various situations that can occur as to why food would be thrown away. It got spoiled, or you’re at a restaurant and you only finished 1/2 of your meal - but you know that you’re going to the park afterwards and so saving your food would probably be pointless…

There are many different situations and scenarios that would occur.

Here is where I am coming from. I grew up EXTREMELY poor. So did my mother. So as I was growing up, I learned to “clean my plate” because to throw away food would be a sin. Especially since it would be, or could be, considered wasteful. (“Waste not! Want not!”) We should be grateful for what we have (I don’t disagree with this) because there are other people who didn’t even have the meager offerings we had. (When I say extremely poor, my mother did … uhm … do some dumpster diving. Let’s leave it at that… :blush: ) It was just me and my mom.

Now, while I’m not rich, I make a decent wage. I can go out to eat when I so please, if I so choose. I used to take my food home because, well, I could not bring myself to throw away food. I started dating someone (Byzantine Catholic) who never really knew what it was like to be evicted as a child, have electricity turned off, or wonder where the next meal was coming from or if he had a bed to go home to at night. He was by no means rich nor comfortable, but he did live in suburbia and had both parents, one of whom had a job, etc.

He noticed that I’d take my food home and asked me why I did so.

“It’s not good to throw away perfectly good food.”
“why not?”
“It’s a sin.”
“No it’s not. If you can’t eat it, you can’t eat it. But throwing away food is not a sin.”

In the years since I have come to regularly not take my food home from a restaurant,even though it was “perfectly good food,” but I’m not entirely comfortable. More often than not I will take it home and bring it for lunch to work the next day.

Throwing away food from the fridge is tough. But, I won’t eat food if it has spoiled or rotten, so I try to eat it before it gets to that point. Sometimes I miss the expiry date. :o

So now, I ask you. Clearly my view and my boyfriend’s view has been formed from life experiences, I still think about people who don’t get to eat everyday. I know what that’s like. I have cats that get a regular meal other than some human beings! :eek:

So. What do you think? Is throwing away food a sin? Under what circumstances if this is so? What does the Catholic Church teach, if it does?

FIRST - a thousand thank yous for not derailing another thread and starting this very important topic!!! :tiphat:

I was raised by a father who grew up as you did - and he passed along this value to me and our entire family - so I have to admit that I am formed as you are to think of it as a sin to waste food. My husband grew up under very ‘tight’ circumstances so he shares this with me and over our 32 year marriage I believe we have wasted very little food - he usually takes left overs for lunch, and I LOVE to cook with leftovers - they are like little treasures to me. Like you it sickens me to throw away food if it goes bad, but we have a compost pile (and since we are vegans) everything that would be thrown away because it it past the ‘healthy to eat’ phase - goes into the compost.

I think you can share this value with your boyfriend and take it as a value to your family - hearts filled with gratitude for what you have and avoiding waste always.

I would say just use your judgement and try not to be wasteful . .

Save the food if it’s reasonable to assume the food is still able to be eaten and safe to eat.

For instance. If you work at a restaurant the customer leaves half a steak on the plate. You can’t reasonably assume that it’s safe to eat, because you don’t know if the customer has disease, etc.

If the food is spoiled in some way, again, you can’t assume it’s safe to eat.

If the food is not to taste and you can’t reasonably find someone who does like it, or is willing to eat it, or some animal that won’t take it, then you can toss it out.

Technically it falls under the sin of “Gluttony.”

Obviously you should not eat food that is spoiled and thus could make you sick, but even so that speaks to our penchant for buying more food than we can eat. But what you describe is one of the great sins of the first world. Restaurants waste tons of food everyday. I’ve been poor (right now I am among “the working poor” because if I have an injury that prevents me from working, I’ll not be able to pay my rent and be homeless).

When working at a fast food restaurant in my youth, I remember being shocked that if a customer whom just bought some food suddenly decided that they didn’t want it (and thus passed the unopened bag of food back across the counter and asked for their money to be returned) that the food *had *to be thrown away. :eek:

Just imagine if every restaurant in the US had a program where they kept the uneaten food from their business day and just loaded up a van with it and drove it to their local homeless shelter or charity. To suggest such a thing, businesses would find thousands of reasons why such a program would not be feasible, which might also fall under the sin of “sloth.” But how many people wouldn’t go to bed hungry in this country?

Just to clarify: When I say “uneaten food” I don’t mean someone’s half-eaten steak. But the person that only ate half of their steak *should *take it home. Unless they’re going to the park afterwords. :smiley:

My father managed a grocery store and he kept the dented cans, the not pretty meat, the veggies that didn’t look quite good enough to sell but still had great nutrition - and that was his backdoor pantry - I’m sure if the owners of the market knew he did this they would not have approved - he however took it upon himself to meet that need - he gave us a great example of sometimes going outside the ‘system’ to try to do something. There is something in Los Angeles (and I think other big cities) called Second Harvest - that does exactly what you are proposing - collects food and delivers to shelters. Everyone’s most basic need for food must be met!

There is a program called Second Harvest in NYC that takes food from the finest restaurants in the city and donates the food to the homeless. It’s been in existence for years and done a lot of good.

Really? Well, it seems I’m out of the loop. I wonder if they’re in Chicago. It makes me happy to know this.

Yes, it’s a sin to waste food. A sin is anything against the will of God, and do you really think God wants humans to waste food? That is not very responsible behavior.

You know how we pray grace before meals: “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

And in the Our Father we pray: “…give us this day our daily bread…?”

What you think God would think if we just threw away the gifts we received from His bounty, the daily bread He gave us, because we were so irresponsible that we prepared or ordered more food than we needed at that meal, or because we bought more food to put in our fridge than we needed, and it spoiled?

Just browsing the Catechism, here are CCC refs that could be used to show that wasting food is a sin:

5th Commandment

CCC 2288 Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, **taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food **and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.

CCC 2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

7th Commandment

**CCC 2401 **The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity.

CCC 2404 **"In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself."187 The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family. **

CCC 2443 God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; "you received without pay, give without pay."231 It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones.232 When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence.233

**CCC 2446 ****St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”**238 “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”:239 When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.240

**CCC 2451 **The seventh commandment enjoins the practice of justice and charity in the administration of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor.

Amen to that! And God bless you and your father!

Yes, they have two food banks in Chicago.

I got this from their website at:

Note that Second Harvest changed their name to Feeding America

We have Second Harvest in Michigan as well.

GodIsGracious - I have major issues with throwing away food. While I was never poor and always had a nice home and good food to eat, my grandparents lived during the Great Depression. One of my grandfathers literally lived in a dirt floor corrugated shack in Kentucky. His mother was abandoned by her husband and left with four boys to feed, and she had to steal food for them.

So from my parents and my grandparents I was raised with a massive appreciation for everything I have. Not just food, but personal belongings as well. I feel that every single thing in my life is a gift from God and I am required to treat it with that level of respect. For example, taking care of clothing and tools, even dishes and furniture. It may sound extreme, but I feel very strongly that we are responsible for taking care of what is given to us, and this includes the food on our plates.

I have often been to confession for cleaning out the fridge and having to throw things away that we didn’t get to because the week became busy and we never had a chance to eat something before it spoilt, or I purchased too much, etc. :frowning: I could probably count the number of times on one hand that I’ve sent back a meal at a resturant because I know they are going to throw it away if I complain.

So - yes, I do belive that throwing food away is a sin. But we have to live in moderation and not be overly scrupulous - this is also a sin. We do our best to plan so we don’t waste, but don’t put ourselves or others in danger of saving things that should be thrown out.

God bless you for being concerned in the first place! :smiley:


That is a very good point! Striving for balance is so important - and our health (as God’s precious children) must always be the first consideration - when we have to throw something away - we just have to remember a) we made too much, b) bought too much — and learn!

Nobody likes to throw away food and always feel that I’ve got too much. I think giving it to an animal is better than letting it go to waste. You could always just be generous about asking people round to your house and God was always generous and when he multiplied the loaves and fish he had baskets leftover. I used to find it really hard as I don’t know anybody to ask who is really in need financially speaking and I normally have enough for another person. So I asked God’s forgiveness and prayed and then I really started to understand the meaning of the Friday fast. I used to give up a meal on Friday teatime and give the money to a charity and that appeased my conscience. Friday is a day of abstinence and fasting in the Church so you could do the same or just give more to a charity that feeds the poor such as Caritas.

It is NOT a sin, in itself, to discard food. In fact, the “clean your plate” mentality can lead to gluttony and obesity. It actually does cause obesity, and one of the goals of some weight loss programs is to teach people NOT to clean their plates – that is, not to eat food just because it’s on the plate, but only to eat until full.

If you deliberately take more food on your plate that you know you won’t eat, then that could be purposefully wasteful and sinful. But it can be hard to accurately gauge the amount of food needed, and we are more likely, in countries such as the US, to err on the side of more, rather than less. This is not deliberate, nor is it sinful.

In many restaurants, the portion size is chosen for you, and for some people it can be too much. That’s not a sin. If you can take it home and eat it later, that’s great, but if you can’t, that’s not a sin.

Thanks, I was going from an ad they used to run on the local TV stations.

I think we can help restaurants learn we don’t want such large portions by ordering a 1/2 order - or sharing a dinner between several diners - if they won’t do that we can vote with our patronage. :wink: I think it is mindfulness that we are all talking about, right? Being mindful and grateful.

Yep! I actually have more to say on this and have totally appreciated all of the responses here. :slight_smile: I have just not had a nice block of time yet. :slight_smile:

Mindful and gratefulness is key. I also appreciated Palm Tree’s reference to the CCC.

Anyway, gotta boogie to… a dinner! :popcorn: nom nom nom

Uhhhh, it is a super SIN!!! Think about jesus when he was making bread. you think he would just throw it out? Heck no.

I had an argument with a protestant friend of mine who came over my house. He decided to cook some pasta and chicken and then he realized he had cooked too much pasta so he got a paper plate and put some of it in it (about a whole bag of it) and threw it away in front of me and my cousin, his girlfriend (he knows how we feel about throwing food away). So we were a little outraged and tried to explain to him why we felt the way we did: my cousin and I are from South America, and even though we always had food on the table, sometimes it was not what we would have liked to eat, plus there are a lot of people there and in the whole world who are starving and wish they could eat a big plate of tasteless pasta and here he is throwing it away. He was really upset and said that we were judging him, that God wouldn’t frown upon him for doing what he did, that he bought the pasta and he could do whatever he wanted with it and that he couldn’t feed any starving people with it. The more I tried to explain why what he did was wrong and that it was not Christian like, the more upset he got and he ended up leaving the house, slamming door and all. Now I have a boyfriend-less cousin and a very angry at Catholics ex-friend. So I’ve been struggling thinking I might have overstepped my boundaries, but this thread has helped me feel a little better.