In-date food destined for bin dished out for free to highlight waste

Food bound for the bin was rescued from landfill and dished out in the form of free meals to almost 700 people yesterday.

Staff, students, and visitors to University College Cork enjoyed a tasty and healthy vegetable curry with cookies, fruit cake or granola bars for dessert, and washed it down with a choice of apple or orange juice thanks to the Feeding 500 event.

Colm Foley, the chairman of UCC’s Environment Society (Envirosoc), said the first event of its kind in Cork, was designed to highlight Ireland’s food-waste scandal.

“Almost one third of food made for human consumption ends up in landfill,” he said.

“All the food we used today was going to go to landfill but it’s perfectly edible.

“It’s just close to its sell-by date so the idea was to collect it, cook it and give it away for free.”

Civil engineering students Sarah Abdalfatah from Iraq and Rachel Newman from Douglas were among the hungry crowd which gathered outside the students’ union centre for the free lunch.

“It’s really very, very tasty, so full of flavour. It’s delicious,” said Sarah.

Fourth-year medical student John O’Brien said: “It’s hard to believe they were going to throw all this food away. It’s the best meal I’ve had all week.”

The event was organised by the Envirosoc, in association with the UCC green campus committee and UCC students’ union.

They collected almost 200kg of vegetables from food wholesalers that they would otherwise have been forced to dump, including some “misshapen” vegetables that wouldn’t make it on to a supermarket shelf, and food with short sell-by dates.

Then with the help of Eoin Mac Cuirc, his son Oisin, and freelance chef David Morrisroe, they used Cork’s Penny Dinners’ kitchens to prepare a wonderful vegetable curry packed with potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, courgettes, and a selection of seeds.

They set up a food tent on campus and the pungent aromatic smells wafting from David’s curry paste attracted hundreds for lunch.

“If you look at the any of the vegetables we used, you’d wonder why anybody would throw them out,” said Mr Mac Cuirc.

“All of this food would have definitely gone to the bin if we hadn’t rescued it.

“This is a rescue mission to say that 500 people could easily be fed with this amount of surplus food.

“If we had more food, we could each thousands of people.”

And he said food wholesalers and distributors are delighted to donate the bin-bound food because it saves them on disposal costs.

Mr Mac Cuirc is part of the Bia Foodbank initiative — a campaign to establish a network of storage areas and kitchens around the country to transform surplus food into tasty meals.

Last year, €1bn worth of food was foodbanked across the EU, feeding five million people.

Feeding 500 was held as part of Green Week 2013.

The UCC green campus programme involves staff and students and was directly responsible for UCC, in 2010, becoming the first university in the world to get a green flag award.

The event is based on the Feeding 5,000 events which have taken part across European cities.

The concept was developed by Tristram Stuart, the author of Food Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.

Waste cost

- One third of all food purchased is wasted.
- This food waste costs the average Irish household a staggering €700 a year.
- Every kilogramme of food waste costs food businesses between €2 to €5.
- Ireland produces an estimated 1m tonnes of food waste annually.
- Experts believe 60% of that waste is preventable.
- Visit stopfoodwaste.ie for some handy tips and advice on how to prevent food waste.

Picture: Serving the food on the college campus were, from left, Christine Loughlin, Darren McAdam-O’Connell, and Mary O’Sullivan.

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