Pope buys quake-zone produce to help farmers, donates food

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis's chief alms-giver went on a shopping spree in quake-struck central Italy on Thursday, buying up prosciutto, cheese and local produce from struggling local businesses and donating the bounty to Roman soup kitchens.

The Vatican said Monsignor Konrad Krajewski's expedition was a concrete gesture of Francis' belief that "when you can't earn a living you lose your dignity."

The Vatican released photos of Krajewski visiting local prosciutto makers and purchasing rounds of cheese and other typical produce. The region is known for its lentils.

Central Italy has been rocked by a series of powerful earthquakes that have driven thousands of people from their homes and devastated the local economy. Italian farm association Coldiretti has estimated damage to the agricultural sector alone of at least 52 million euros ($55 million.)

Krajewski visited small-scale farmers and producers in the hard-hit towns of Ascoli Piceno and Camerino, filling up a van with their goods. The Vatican said the products were immediately distributed to Roman soup kitchens.

For some time now, the Vatican's tax-free supermarket has stocked produce from the quake zone to help the local economy. However, the tax-free market has a limited clientele: Only those with coveted Vatican ID cards can shop there.

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