October 16th is World Food Day and for many, the day is about focusing on healthier food systems and even more simply, healthier food. For food waste geeks like me, it's a time to recognize the unacceptable hunger that still exists despite massive waste. In fact, 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes completely to waste. Add to that, the fact that our food system is responsible for 80 percent of freshwater use, 33 percent of human made emissions, and 50 percent of all land use. Meanwhile, 1 in 6 people in the U.S. are food insecure. This problem, perhaps the environmental and social challenge of our time, is a correctable one.
Despite these facts, food waste improvements in the U.S. have been mostly dormant over the last five years, while successes grow in Europe. Over the last six months, I have been speaking with folks working on this all around the country and it is obvious that there is a movement brewing here. There are more and more governments, organizations, businesses, and, most importantly, people doing amazing things all across the U.S. to prevent food waste and also recover good food for those in need. You might be asking yourself – haven’t we always had food waste? And you would be right, to some extent we’ve always wasted our food. However, now more than ever, we have all the solutions we need to end food waste and hunger.
With this in mind, I decided to coordinate a series of events in Berkeley and Oakland, California, with some amazing partners such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, GRACE Communications, Sustainable America, and the Northern California Recycling Association, and Ashley Zanolli of the Environmental Protection Agency Region 10. Events, recently called the “Woodstock of Food Waste” by Jonathan Bloom, that will bring together people from all around the U.S. (and some further afield) with the distinct potential to affect massive change in the U.S. And, to cap off these events in a very public way, on Saturday, October 18th in Oakland, we'll be hosting the first Feeding the 5000 in the U.S. – a 100 percent free food waste awareness festival. It will be a food event unlike anything ever staged in this country, inspired by the Feeding the 5000 from the U.K., developed by the organization Feedback and its creator Tristram Stuart who have had massive impact on food waste in Europe over the last five years.
What will happen at Feeding the 5000 Oakland? The centerpiece is a delicious meal for 5,000 people made from thousands of pounds of quality fresh produce; tasty ingredients that were destined to be wasted before reaching stores all because they did not meet supermarkets' strict cosmetic standards. Next, we’ll be giving away thousands of pounds more of this delicious produce and have inspirational and educational speeches from world-renowned experts such as Tristram Stuart, Dana Gunders, Jonathan Bloom, and Robert Egger. There will be chef demonstrations and activities on how to combat food waste in your kitchen and get creative and tasty with leftovers, a panel discussion and more. We’ll even have Rob Greenfield, who has bicycled across country giving jaw-dropping food waste fiasco presentations. So please help us spark this movement to end food waste and hunger and find out more about our events and what more you can do at www.EndFoodWaste.org.