Eating the Message: Feeding the 5000 events catalyse Europe’s food waste movement
Across Europe, tens of thousands of citizens have joined the food waste movement and tasted food that would otherwise have been wasted at Feeding the 5000 events that celebrate the solutions to the food waste scandal.
Since 2013, five Feeding the 5000 events have taken place across Europe as part of FUSIONS, catalysing national food waste movements and promoting a wide range of innovative solutions to the food waste scandal. In Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, Warsaw and Thessaloniki, Feeding the 5000 events brought together broad coalitions of organisations working to tackle food waste, alongside armies of volunteers who dug in to spread the message that food is too good to waste. Gleaning food that would have been left on farms or rejected food was collected from wholesale markets and packhouses.
All these tonnes of fresh, delicious vegetables were then cleaned, peeled and chopped at Disco chopping parties before the events. Chefs arrived on public squares in the city centres at the crack of dawn, cooking delicious hot meals that were given away to the crowds of people, all shocked that such tasty food was destined to be wasted. Members of the public also learned about what could be done to tackle the issue through the partner organisations and initiatives that exist in their cities working on innovative solutions to food waste as well as what each citizen can do themselves by pledging to reduce their own food waste and demanding that companies and governments take action as well.
Each of the events received widespread national media coverage, engaged a wide variety of partner organisations and catalysed long term action on food waste beyond the event itself. In total over 25,000 people were fed a free meal made entirely out of food that would have been wasted and tens of thousands of portions of fresh fruit and vegetables were given away as part of grocery giveaways at the events.
The key events:
Feeding the 5000 Brussels took place on the 1st of April 2014 in partnership with over a dozen organisations including the Belgian Federation of Food Banks, Oxfam, Slow Food, 11.11.11., Disco Soupe Brussels and the Flemish Ministry For Poverty Reduction. Gleaning volunteers harvested oversized leeks and spinach from local farms, saved Kenyan green beans rejected by Belgian supermarkets, held a Disco Chopping Day at the Brussels Food Bank and served over 6,000 delicious meals made from fresh ingredients that otherwise would have gone to waste. The response from the public and media was overwhelming and the reach of the media outlets that covered the event was over 11 million, the total population of Belgium. Here’s a selection of some of the best: De Standaard and RTL+. As a result of the event a national Gleaning Network has been established and continues to send volunteers to farms to harvest food that would have been wasted and donate it to people in need through their collaboration with the food bank. Over 3500 kg of food has been gleaned so far.
Feeding the 5000 Warsaw on 18th October 2014 was organised in partnership with the President of Warsaw, the Warsaw Food Bank, the Warsaw University of Life Sciences and Swiat na Tak Foundation. It was held at the University campus and there was a strong educational element to the event; most of the volunteers were school children and university students who had taken part in lessons and lectures on food waste ahead of volunteering at the event. There were vegetable pickling workshops, chef demonstrations and composting classes as well as a large grocery giveaway of produce that was rejected by supermarkets due to cosmetic standards, including perfectly delicious pineapples whose only crime was leaves that were deemed too ugly.
Feeding the 5000 Thessaloniki on the 9th November 2014 was organised in partnership with Anatoliki AE, WWF Greece, Boroume, Slow Food Youth Network Greece, YMCA and the British Council, with the support of the Municipality of Thessaloniki and Thessaloniki Youth Capital 2014. It was one of the largest ever Feeding the 5000 events, right in the heart of the city by Thessaloniki’s iconic White Tower. Celebrity chefs brought large crowds to the stage and showcased recipes that reduce food waste. There was extensive media coverage with many TV stations and newspapers covering the event.
Feeding the 5000 Barcelona / Gran DInar Barcelona on the 22nd November 2014: The Plataforma Aprofitem els Aliments were the main partners in the event, bringing together a wide coalition of participating organsiations. In addition to the main feeding event, there was a grocery giveaway and multiple partner stalls. The local partners are already in active discussions to build on the momentum created by the event and organise further events in the future.
All the activity in Europe has inspired action in the US, with the first ever U.S. Feeding the 5000 event taking place in Oakland, California. This was swiftly followed by the first event hosted by an educational institution at the University of North Carolina. Both were directly inspired by what the events in Europe have achieved.
In total, Feedback organised 21 Feeding the 5000 events around the world, serving over 100,000 meals made out of fresh, delicious food that would have been wasted. Yet the impact of the events can’t be reduced to the amount of food that is saved as a result of the events. Far more important is the wider impact of showing the practical solutions to the global scandal of food waste and inspiring people to take action. This has catalysed a global torrent of campaigns and initiatives to tackle food waste, with even more to come in 2015.
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