A new environmental movement springing up in cities across Europe wants to challenge the way we think about the food we eat and about the food we throw away. On 24 November hundreds of Dubliners will be treated to a free lunch cooked by chefs from some of the city’s favourite eateries. There’s only one rule – the ingredients have to be ones that would otherwise end up in the bin.That means using the kind of oddly shaped vegetables that probably wouldn’t make it from the supermarket shelf into your basket, never mind onto your dinner plate. It’s a quirky idea, but with a serious environmental and social message behind it.
Europe has nearly twice as much food as is required by the nutritional needs of its population, the organisers of the Feeding the 5000 event say. Around one-third of food for human consumption is wasted globally, according to the UN. Making food that is never eaten is a major contributor to rich countries’ climate-change causing pollution, meaning our food waste habit is not sustainable. Feeding the 5000 has already held similar events in London, Bristol and most recently in Paris. Mindy O’Brien, co-ordinator of the Dublin event, decided to take action in her own city of Dublin after reading a book on the global food waste scandal by one of the founders of Feeding the 5000, Tristram Stuart. 'People are starting to become more aware of this – it’s a global issue through the whole food chain. We don’t have enough land to produce the food we need if we are to continue eating the way we eat,' says O’Brien.
But food waste is not just a question of global resources – it also raises important questions about social justice at a local level. As Ireland enters its fifth year of economic crisis and austerity policies, the poorest people continue to be the hardest hit. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that for many Irish people, finding money for meals is a daily battle. A government report published last month indicated that 10% of people in Ireland are living in food poverty, with lone parents and families with young children among the groups most at risk. In 2011, almost a quarter of calls to Ireland’s largest charity group, the society of St. Vincent de Paul, were appeals for help in getting food.
Throw food somewhere 'useful'
Feeding the 5000 plan to use their Dublin event to launch a campaign aimed at changing the law in Ireland to reduce food donation liability, which would be an important step in encouraging restaurants, shops and producers to donate food they would otherwise throw out. The US has brought in such legislation, the 'good samaritan food donation act', which made it easier for businesses to donate food to non-profit organisations.In addition, the group are developing an app which will allow food businesses in Dublin to connect with local charities.
Changing the law in Ireland to reduce food donation liability is an important step in encouraging restaurants, shops and producers to donate food they would otherwise throw out
The app will allow the businesses to advertise when they have food they need to get rid of. Charities working with people who need meals can then register their interest in the food and come and collect it, O’Brien explains. It’s hoped that next week’s mass dinner on the streets of Dublin will get people interested in that spirit of co-operation, and encourage them to think about the big picture on food – about the food choices we make as individuals, and about the choices we should be making as a society. O’Brien says: 'The street festival is about eating together. It’s getting back to the idea of community in food.'
This article is published courtesy of cafebabel.com Dublin, our pan-European network’s newest local team members of bloggers, journalists and photographers. Watch this space for their new blog platform in early 2013, and join the facebook group here. The author's official website is here; you can also follow Valerie on twitter @valerie_flynn
Image: (cc) | UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL ||/ flickr; in-text courtesy of Voice Ireland