'Wonky' food feeds 5,000 in event exposing waste

The logistics of feeding 5,000 people for nothing might sound like a difficult task.

The logistics of feeding 5,000 people for nothing might sound like a difficult task.

Yet Tristram Stuart, initiator of an event aimed at doing precisely that, couldn’t have appeared more relaxed as he munched on a steaming bowl of curry at Dublin’s Wolfe Tone Square on Saturday.

“I haven’t had to do anything. As soon as you say you’re doing a ‘Feed the 5,000’, people come out of the woodwork and you discover that, actually, your society is made up of people who are all trying to do something good,” said the author of Food Waste, Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, who initiated the event in London in 2009.

It has since been held in Bristol and Paris, and is now being introduced across Europe as part of a four-year project to tackle food waste in the European Union.


“There is a colossal global problem, namely that we waste a third of all the world’s food . . . The solutions to that problem are delicious – eating food rather than throwing it away – and I thought the best way of doing that would be to feed 5,000 people for free, all from food that was going to be wasted,” he explained.

He said “wonky” or misshapen vegetables that do not make it on to supermarkets’ shelves due to their cosmetic standards are, in the best-case scenario, fed to pigs, but are very often left to rot. “Obviously it costs producers a lot, it costs farmers a lot; think of all the land you’ve used to grow food that’s perfectly edible and no one is eating it,” he said.

Inside a specially erected kitchen, Peter O’Grady, better known as Para, used a paddle to stir a huge pot of vegetable curry, a main course made entirely out of misshapen vegetables.

The “grade two” vegetables were donated by the Meade Potato company, while 23 crates of apples picked from UCD’s orchard were pressed for apple juice, which was also given out.

The event was organised by four environmental groups: Voice (Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment); Stop Food Waste; Food Glorious Food; and Bia Foodbank. Mindy O’Brien, co-ordinator at Voice, said the groups were seeking a central facility in Dublin where “wonky” food would be sent before being distributed to the needy by charities.

The logistics:

What it took

150kg of potatoes;

300kg of rice;

120kg of cauliflower;

150kg of carrots;

100kg of peas;

100kg of tomatoes;

80kg of cabbage;

80kg of courgettes;

15kg of coriander;

80kg of lentils;

80kg of butter;

7kg of salt;

23 crates of apples;

5,000 wooden forks;

5,000 sugar cane bowls