Feeding the needy in Rome

Marta is a 79-year-old retired Catholic woman living in Casalborgone with her husband. Each day, she sets out on her bicycle and rides around the streets of her quaint little commune to search for food in dumpsters.

On most days, Marta collects upwards of 40kgs of edible food from these dumpsters. Three times each week, she loads all of the food she finds into her car and delivers it to needy families throughout her community.

“It’s incredible how much is wasted. They throw out food near its expiration date or if the packaging looks damaged during transport. Recently, for example, there have been oranges. If one is bad, they throw out the whole ten-pound bag. It’s shameful,” Marta told the Catholic News Agency.

Marta has been collecting food from dumpsters to feed her community for several years now. It all started when she became aware of a family in need and on the verge of losing everything. As she collected food for this family, Marta gradually became aware of other families in need. Today, Marta delivers food to eight local families.

While collecting the food, Marta says she is subjected to recriminatory stares and criticism. Marta says “it doesn’t faze me. I do it because I know there are people in need and waiting for me.”

Marta went on to say that all eight of the families she delivers food to “always welcome me with open arms and great decorum".

“They never ask me for anything and they never waste anything: with the flour they make bread, with the milk they make cheese,” she told the Catholic News Agency.

Marta’s efforts came to the attention of Deacon Benito Cutelle of the Nativity of Our Lord Parish in December of last year. Deacon Cutelle noticed Marta foraging for food in a dumpster and thought she was looking for food to feed herself.

“I was mistaken,” Cutelle said. “She was not searching through the garbage for herself but for people who didn’t have anything to eat. I was really surprised. At her age she very humbly provides a service, an important service to benefit our poorest brothers. What she regrets is that when she’s too tired, there is no-one else to help them.”

While Marta does worry about what will happen to the needy families she delivers food to once she is unable to continue servicing them, she says, for the time being, she is full of energy and hopes that her work will bring the issue to the public’s attention.

Marta comments: “The politicians and those who make public policy decisions ought to realise the real situation and how much poverty there still is today.”

Marta’s efforts are inline with the Catholic calling to be charitable and to care for those less fortunate and in need.

As the Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminded the faithful back in September, “charity is “the soul” of the Church’s mission”.

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