The pope has contrasted the 820 million starving people in the world with those who overeat and turn food into “an avenue of personal destruction."

In a message to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization to mark World Food Day, Pope Francis said the “distorted relationship between food and nutrition" has left almost 700 million people overweight and "victims of improper dietary habits," The Daily Mail reports.

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“We are in fact witnessing how food is ceasing to be a means of subsistence and turning into an avenue of personal destruction,” he said, and called for “the cultivation of lifestyles inspired by gratitude for the gifts we have received and the adoption of a spirit of temperance (and) moderation.”

St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Credit: Getty Images

St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Credit: Getty Images

“By adopting such a lifestyle, we will grow in a fraternal solidarity that seeks the common good and avoids the individualism and egocentrism that serve only to generate hunger and social inequality.”

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“It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone and yet not everyone has access to it, and that in some areas of the world food is wasted, discarded and consumed in excess.”