Let’s end the global food waste scandal

Editor’s Note: Tristram Stuart is the author of “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.” He campaigns on environmental and social issues relating to food production and this year won the international environmental award The Sophie Prize for his fight against food waste.

Story highlights

Central London event aims to feed 5000 people using food normally considered to be waste

Edible food is often thrown away by businesses, restaurants and retailers

Food sent to landfill decomposes into methane, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide

London, England CNN  — 

On Friday in London’s Trafalgar Square, 5,000 members of the public were served a free hot curry, free apple juice and an array of fresh groceries.

The lunchtime feast, dished up by volunteers – including the Bishop of London and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and – was made entirely from ingredients that otherwise would have been wasted, such as fresh but cosmetically imperfect “wonky” fruit and vegetables that fail to meet the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards.

The event demonstrated how easy it is to reduce the unimaginable levels of food waste both in the UK and internationally, and how governments, businesses and individuals can all help to change the way waste has become rife in our globalized food chain.

Putting on an event of this scale has involved hundreds of volunteers and numerous partner organizations and charities. Before the event, over 300 volunteers have given their time to wash, peel, chop, cook and serve the delicious curry.

Tristram Stuart

The ingredients themselves have been sourced from farmers who donated several tons of vegetables and fruit. During the event, FoodCycle, a charity which serves up community meals made from surplus food, put on cookery demonstrations in the Field Kitchen led by popular British chefs.

Tons more food donated by farmers was passed on to FareShare, a food redistribution charity that feeds vulnerable people who may not otherwise eat a square meal. In addition, around a ton of surplus apples was delivered to Trafalgar Square so that passersby can press them to make fresh juice. Friends of the Earth brought along four pigs to eat the leftover apple pulp.

Feeding 5,000 people is a challenge, but according to my calculations, if we could hypothetically save all the food wasted across the UK on any one day, there would be enough to feed 60 million people (i.e., the entire nation) and still leave some over for tea-time.

The aim of these activities is to demonstrate that everybody can gain by tackling food waste. The food we buy and eat is part of an international food supply chain.