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Not a waste: 5,000 Londoners to feast on left-over food

Up to 5,000 passers-by in central London are to be served hot soups made from "ugly" vegetables, freshly-made sandwiches and fruit smoothies in a free feast of "Biblical proportions".

The lunchtime banquet in Trafalgar Square next month, 'Feeding the 5,000', will be made of food that would otherwise be thrown away and is being held to highlight the social and environmental costs of food waste.

Author Tristram Stuart has organised the event on Wednesday 16 December with the help of Save the Children, ActionAid, This is Rubbish, and FareShare which redistributes food to the needy.

According to FareShare, 4 million people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet. Meanwhile half of all food in Britain is wasted between farm and fork with households throwing out a quarter of their food shopping. That waste costs the average home £480 a year, enough to save three children from malnutrition.

Organisers, who have the backing of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, hope to serve 5,000 people between midday and 2pm.

"We all know how easy it is to over-shop ending up binning food we don't end up eating," said another supporter, Rosie Boycott, chair of the London Food Board.

"Making food go further helps us rediscover the pleasures of home cooking and saves pounds off the weekly food bill. Feeding the 5000 will bring to life the idea that all food is good food, and every morsel of it is too good to waste."

The Bishop of London , Richard Chartres, who will also attend, described the symbolic meal as "an acted parable". It would be, he said, "a challenge to each one of us to examine our own larders and dustbins in order to reduce our impact on the environment. It will also alert us to the injustice of a world in which some have food to waste while others go hungry.

"Jesus told his disciples after feeding the 5000 to 'gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost'. At the Feeding the 5000 event, 5000 people will be fed from ingredients which otherwise would have been thrown away."

Mr Stuart's acclaimed book, Waste, suggests that as well as generating unecessary climate change emissions, food waste in the West pushes commodities such as grain out of reach of the world’s poor, pushing millions towards starvation.

He said: "The aim of our lunchtime feast is to highlight how food waste can be avoided by putting food to good use i.e. feeding people."

The organisers are expecting to cook one tonne of carrots, one tonne of potatoes, one tonne of parsnips, and three-quarters of a tonne of onion... so vegetable soup is expected to be on the menu.

Smoothies will be made from bananas, grapes, and apples

If fewer than 5,000 people turn up, leftover food will be distributed by FareShare to homeless shelters and other needy people.

A spokeswoman said: "None of it will go to waste".