Feeding the 5,000

Campaigners serve enormous free feasts made entirely from discarded ingredients in their mission to reduce food waste.

Last Modified: 25 Aug 2012 08:13
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Many argue that continued economic growth is necessary to provide food and other basic necessities for our rapidly growing population. But some say we already produce more than enough food - we just need to manage it more carefully. Each year, developed nations waste a staggering amount. In fact, all the world's one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe alone.

British campaigner and writer Tristram Stuart is renowned for his sustained efforts to raise awareness on the issue. In recent years he and other food waste campaigners have staged an event of literally biblical proportions in London's Trafalgar Square, called 'Feeding the 5,000'. His team serves up an enormous free feast made entirely from ingredients which would usually be thrown away, such as oddly shaped vegetables rejected by supermarkets.

Russell Beard joins Stuart in Lincolnshire in the east of England, to help rescue a field of unwanted cabbages. Large produce companies often have test fields where they try out new crop varieties, but as these have no commercial value they are often ploughed back into the ground. Stuart is forging links between food producers and organisations which distribute unwanted food to those in need of a good meal. These particular cabbages are collected by the charity Fair Share, with the remainder being cooked up for the 'Feeding the 5,000' feast.

Russell also visits The People's Supermarket in London, a grocery store run 'by the people, for the people', which sources produce locally where possible. Rather than throwing away fruit and vegetables as they become too old to sell, they are handed over to the chef and turned into ready meals. Anything which cannot be re-used is turned into compost.

Free lunches in London are few and far between, and on the morning of 'Feeding the 5,000', Trafalgar Square is packed with locals and tourists eager to claim their portion of vegetable curry. Stuart and his team have once again organised a celebration of food which some might term as 'waste', from apple presses producing delicious juice from fruit left unpicked in orchards, to cooking demonstrations explaining how to make use of stale bread. Russell samples the curry, and meets some of the latest converts to the mission to reduce food waste.

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