Fill bellies, not bins!

On 1st April in Brussels, Feeding the 5,000 and a coalition of European partner organisations will feed 5000 people in Brussels with a free lunch made entirely from food that would have been wasted. Campaigner Tristram Stuart wonders whether Europeans are making the best use of wasted food in terms of recovering and recycling its value.

ristram Stuart is the founder of Feeding the 5,000 and author of  Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal. He is a BBC Food & Farming Awards Finalist 2014 (Feeding the 5000, The Gleaning Network, The Pig Idea), and a Sophie Prize winner, 2011.

At the event in Brussels, tonnes of green beans and other produce from as far away as Kenya will be given away for free to demonstrate the injustice of wasting food on this scale and what Europeans can do to stop this.

Some of the food on offer will have come from as far away as Africa. Farmers visited by the Feeding the 5000 team in Kenya are wasting 40% of the food they grow thanks to the unfair and unnecessary trading practices of European supermarkets whom they supply. One exporter outside Nairobi visited by the team, while working in partnership with UNEP, wastes at least 20 tonnes of edible produce every day. Worst of all, waste handlers collecting the unwanted produce are made to sign a contract guaranteeing that none of the “green waste” will be used to feed people, even though most of it is perfectly fit for consumption – and meanwhile millions go hungry on the other side of the depot’s perimeter. Typically the produce is wasted either because the European retailer has cancelled a forecast demand at the last minute, or because it has failed the ultra-fussy cosmetic standards of the retailers.

Farmers incur the cost of this waste even though it has been caused by the policies of European supermarkets. A recently passed law in the UK, the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, ensures that UK supermarkets abusing their power in this way can be subject to public naming and shaming and ultimately fines of up to 1% of turnover (the equivalent of up to half a billion pounds). Measures to introduce similar regulation across Europe are under way and Feeding the 5000 will indicate that this would help to reduce waste by encouraging supermarkets to make more accurate forecasts, and avoid unfair trading practices.

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