DC Central Kitchen, José Andrés, and other local foodies are teaming up with a London-based environmental nonprofit, Feedback, to feed 5,000 people in DC for free on Wednesday. The event is open to the public, and people who attend will eat food made from ingredients that would have otherwise ended up in the bin.
Tristram Stuart didn’t know the success that would come from organizing the first Feeding the 5000 event in London back in 2009. He saw “immediate policy change in both levels of government and the food industry.” Besides the growing numbers of “perfectly edible, leftover food” donations from restaurants to local service providers, Stuart, who founded Feedback and the flagship event, was also able to influence UK retailer Tesco to reevaluate its rules on the size and image of the green beans it buys from growers and farmers.
“Tesco will no longer trim the beans at all,” said Stuart.” Most environmental impact comes from food production, and a lot of fresh water is being used to grow food that ends up being wasted because retailers won’t take ugly produce.”
Vegetables in Wednesday’s main dish, a veggie curry, probably wouldn’t pass the the aesthetic standards that grocery stores want from produce wholesalers. Another dish on the menu, Spike Mendelsohn’s meat chili, will use beef heart—a cut of meat that’s often discarded. Stuart, who says the Western part of the globe wastes as much food as it consumes, wants to show through the 5,000 meals prepared that, “we can eat our way out of this scandal.”
By bringing his food waste-awareness event to DC, Stuart hopes to see similar change to the States, where “the most absurd thing” he’s observed is the lack of standardized expiration dates on food packaging. He believes that the lack of common language in food labeling—in regards to the differences between food safety and premium quality dates—prompts consumers to dispose of food that is still safe to consume.
Volunteers from Feedback, Campus Kitchen Project and other nonprofits washed and chopped 2,000 pounds of produce on Tuesday morning to begin the cooking process that evening. For the handful of volunteers from DC Central Kitchen, preparing 5,000 meals in one day is not unusual.
“I really hope this brings awareness of the work we’re doing every day,” said DC Central Kitchen’s CEO, Mike Curtin. Not only is DC Central Kitchen heavily involved in recycling food and providing meals for those in need, but they also train adults for careers in culinary careers. The culinary job training students are also volunteering in tomorrow’s events by helping cook and serve the meals
“We’re using the idea of taking this leftover food and turning that into meals but also taking folks that would be, so to speak, “thrown away” to be useful and of service in the food industry,” said Curtin. “It’s a righteous circle of opportunity.”
Feeding the 5000 will take place at the Woodrow Wilson Plaza on Wednesday May 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to the public.