Genoa, June 18 - The Italian Church on Tuesday bemoaned an increase number of poor people stealing food in ''hunger thefts'', as the country endures its longest recession in over 20 years. The head of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, urged supermarket chains to start giving away unsold food that was about to expire to help head off a disturbing surge in food-theft driven by hunger. Bagnasco,the archbishop of Genoa, called on food chains to ''definitively resolve'' the ''grave, new'' phenomenon, which he referred to as ''a plague'' that is ''new for our times''. ''For various reasons, including the law, (food) waste is great, enormous," Bagnasco said. "From hot meals unsold each day to expiring foods - all this could constitute a healthy asset to put into circulation. "All that is needed is the timely generosity of many chain organizations so that this plague is properly addressed while waiting for a clearer resolution''. The cardinal said food-theft to fill empty stomachs should provide ''cause for reflection''. Pope Francis recently called for action to reduce food waste. Francis said throwing away food was like stealing it from the poor.