For me as a food and travel writer, food is about adventure, about culture, about creativity and conviviality. But food is also about nurturing body and spirit and – at its most basic – it’s about survival. That’s why I volunteer at the Drop-In Centre, the Food Bank, and with LeftOvers Calgary.
Through LeftOvers I’ve learned that, at its worst, food is also about waste. HEAPS and HEAPS of it. So I’m excited to be a part of Feeding the 5000 this upcoming Thursday in Olympic Plaza – an event that will see Calgary chefs and volunteers turn perfectly edible food that would be destined for the landfill into a tasty lunch for 5000 people. And the best part? LUNCH IS FREE AND EVERYONE’S INVITED.
From its inaugural event in the UK in 2009, Feeding the 5000 has spread to locations around the world, including Paris, Sydney, New York, and Vancouver. Its aim is to raise awareness about global food waste. Fully 1/3 of the world’s food production is wasted, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization – discarded in processing, transport, warehouses, grocery stores, restaurants, and home kitchens.
Yes, you read that right – ONE THIRD of the world’s food production never makes it into the mouths of people.
In Canada alone, approximately 170,000 tonnes of edible food – or 300 million meals valued at 31 billion dollars – are sent to landfills every year. This squanders countless resources in terms of water, energy, land and the like – and makes discarded food one of our largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Here in Calgary, we’ve got work to do, too. Discarded food accounts for 36% of all material going from our homes into our landfills – and a 2016 study commissioned by the City of Calgary revealed that 52% of that discarded food is edible.
The food we’re talking about is not spoiled, mouldy, or otherwise unsafe to eat. Think those imperfect fruit and vegetables that you’re reluctant to buy at the supermarket (Yup – I’m guilty as charged). Or food beyond its “best before” date, but not past its expiration date. Overstock and oversupply at retailers. And mislabelled, improperly packaged, or damaged food.
What SAIT Chef Andrew Hewson and his team of volunteers aim to do this Thursday, June 15, is transform unsellable winter-stored potatoes and carrots, ugly tomatoes, surplus chickpeas, day-old bread – and anything else that might turn up in the food truck – into a delicious and nutritious summertime lunch that includes soup, salads, and dessert.
I’ll be chopping up some of those vegetables in the lead-up to the event and serving food in Olympic Plaza from 11 am to 2 pm. Come on down and have a taste – did I mention that it’s free?
While you’re eating, you’ll be able to find out what LeftOvers Calgary, the Calgary Regional Partnership, the Recycling Council of Alberta, and other organizations are doing to address food waste at the community level- and what we can do at home and at the supermarket to reduce our own food waste.
If you’re interested in joining me at the chopping block, contact me here – or on Facebook – and I’ll let you know where to be and when.
Or contact Jessica Letizia directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she’ll tell you how you can still help out before, during, or after the event. Feeding the 5000 would be happy to have a few extra hands on the team.
The food you’ll see is destined to surprise you. Come on down and check it out.
Feeding the 5000 Calgary
June 15, 2017/11 am to 2 pm/Olympic Plaza
For more information, see F5Kyyc.com.