Francis also urged better respect for migrants and denounced the persecution of Christians in Asia, Africa and the Middle East in his global survey of world crises delivered to diplomats accredited to the Holy See.
Saying hunger is a threat to world peace, he noted that not only food but human beings themselves are often discarded as unnecessary.
"We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed 'the throwaway culture,'" Francis said.
That culture, he said, also affects the unborn child.
"For example, it is frightful even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day," he said. Francis has generally limited his exhortations about abortion, saying church teaching is well known and that he prefers to speak less about the church's moralizing rules and more about its positive, welcoming message.
In remarks that were less diplomatic and more a reflection of his own priorities, Francis called for the elderly to be treated with respect that their wisdom warrants, and for children to be protected from exploitation, slavery and hunger.
He lamented those who have died trying to find better lives for themselves and their families, citing migrants from his own Latin America trying to reach the United States and Africans seeking to enter Europe.
He urged Italians in particular to "renew their praiseworthy commitment of solidarity" toward migrants, an allusion to the current debate in Italy to revise its restrictive immigration policies.
Each year, thousands attempt risky voyages across the Mediterranean in unseaworthy boats heading toward Italian shores, and hundreds die en route. Last year, Francis visited the island of Lampedusa, the destination of choice for smuggling operations where more than 360 people died in a single shipwreck on Oct. 3.
From Syria to Mali, North Korea to South Sudan, Francis called for the international community to do more to end conflicts and care for the most vulnerable.
Francis also decried the persecution of Christians that has forced many to flee the Middle East, resulted in bloodshed in places like Nigeria and Mali and deprived Christians of their right to worship in parts of Asia.
"We must never cease to do good, even when it is difficult and demanding, and when we endure acts of intolerance if not genuine persecution," he said.