Food waste is one of the biggest problems facing the European Union. According to a study conducted by the FAO in 2011, around 33% of the food produced globally ends up in the garbage. Waste takes place along the entire food chain, with around 900 million tons lost along the production, distribution and retail chain, and the remaining 400 million during consumption.
However, much of this mountain of food is actually edible; a scandal given that according to the FAO, the food wasted in Europe alone could feed over 200 million people. More and more people are realizing that the issue of food waste is crucial, and that we have a moral and environmental duty to do something about it. To encourage European citizens to get involved, the Slow Food Youth Network has been organizing many innovative events over the past couple of years that highlight the serious of the issue while keeping the atmosphere light.
The first Schnippeldisko (literally “chopping disco”) was held in Berlin in January 2012, organized by the Slow Food Youth Network Germany. Hundreds of people gathered inside one of the city’s biggest covered markets, armed with vegetable peelers, knives and cutting boards. Together they cut up over a ton of unsold vegetables, previously destined for the dump, and cooked them while grooving to funky tunes. The vegetables rescued by the young Berliners were not acceptable by market standards – superficial rules based on looks or size – and so were going to be simply thrown away, despite being perfectly fresh, healthy and tasty. By involving so many people in a proactive and fun way, the event brought a powerful message about how we can all make a difference.
The German model spread quickly and been adapted in other European countries, including Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden and, most of all, France, where the events are called Disco Soupe. Based on the values of recycling and solidarity, the French approach is very simple: Hundreds of volunteers meet to prepare discarded fruits and vegetables into soups and salads, and distributed them for free to people in need – all accompanied by music of course. In this way, Slow Food Bastille and Slow Food Youth Network France have served thousands of people hearty meals and saved tons of food waste. After a successful first year, seventeen events are scheduled to take place across France in May 2013!
Disco Soupe has also partnered with the international movement “Feeding the 5,000”, founded by Tristram Stuart to transform food waste into sustenance. The network has organized many free meals based on food gleaned from fields or saved from dumpsters, and the website invites people to take a pledge to reduce food waste and encourage businesses to do the same.
In the Netherlands the Power to the Pieper (“power to the potato”) event was held in 2012 in Dam Square, in the middle of Amsterdam. Members of Slow Food Youth Netherlands unloaded a ton of potatoes right on to the square, with the farmer inviting everyone who passed to take some home. The public action highlighted the madness of a food system in which potato prices are so low that farmers are leaving their crops to rot in barns.