Saturday in California. Blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures. A perfect day for a festival!
But I was totally unprepared for the emotion-packed experience of participating in the first US “Feeding the 5000” event.
With the promise of FREE LUNCH, there was already a line of more than 50 hungry souls lined up and waiting when the serving began at noon. A generous portion of hot, delicious soup chock full of carrots, caramelized onions and sweet potatoes was doled out to each – the amazing fact being that all the ingredients had been rescued from farms and grocers where they had been culled from the sellable product and prepared to be destroyed or plowed back into the soil simply because they were not cosmetically perfect. Too big, too small, too bumpy, too funny looking, all were perfectly edible and when chopped, made a tasty, nutritious meal.
In addition to the soup, attendees were offered a baguette of multi-grain bread and the opportunity to take home additional packages of day-old bread generously donated by a local bakery. With many lower income and even homeless attendees attending from the area, the bread was deeply appreciated and packed into bags to take home to their families.
A separate tent housed People’s Grocery, a retailer dedicated to meeting the needs of their communities by selling affordable food. Using similarly rejected fruits and vegetables based on an unsellable appearance, they created delicious smoothies for everyone as well.
Free Lunch. And Free Food for Thought. Why would all that food have gone to waste – while millions of Americans struggle with hunger? That was the theme across the full afternoon of presentations and panels as well.
I was honored to join Suzan Batesman from the Alameda County Food Bank and Blase Bova from the Society of St Vincent de Paul of Alameda County in a panel to highlight the Feeding America network’s role in rescuing valuable food to help feed families in need. With our members picking up and distributing over 2.5 Billion pounds of food last year that would have otherwise been wasted to help feed the 47 million individual clients we serve, we are proud to be a tiny piece that’s helping make a difference.
But clearly there is more to be done. And Feeding the 5000 is making huge progress in generating awareness of the issue. Not only did thousands of needy individuals walk away fed on Saturday, thousands were also struck by the notion that they can help inspire change that will allow more wasted food to feed their communities.
Witnessing the impact of that simple meal of soup on people’s lives was an inspiration.
Thank you Tristram Stuart and Feeding the 5000, for including Feeding America in this event. And in the Zero Food Waste movement!
Karen Hanner is the Managing Director of Manufacturing Partnerships at Feeding America.
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