Feeding the 5,000 should be trigger to lessen waste

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According to The Bible Jesus managed to feed 5,000 with a pair of fish and five loaves of bread.

That event is one of the more celebrated of the miracles of the New Testament, but there’s no secret to the method that a group is planning to use next month in the middle of Portsmouth.

The city’s food partnership wants to feed thousands of people, and intends to do so by getting hold of food that would otherwise be thrown out – whether that’s from farms, restaurants, supermarkets or other shops.

Food waste in this country has long been a scandal. It’s obviously hard to compute exactly, but it’s estimated that the average household throws out £500 of food every year. That is often simply bad planning, but when added to the amount of fruit and vegetables that are rejected for being ‘imperfect’ by supermarkets, it becomes outrageous. It’s been said many times before, but that fact that our society has got into a position where a knobbly parsnip will be thrown out on aesthetic grounds rather than sold – or even given away – is baffling given that we live in times when food bank use has been increasing over the last few years. No wonder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall became so animated over the subject recently on television – as the figure quoted that up to 40 per cent of crops can be chucked out is outrageous.

The event planned in Portsmouth is a stunt, obviously, but we mean that in the most complimentary sense possible. Let us hope it succeeds, and catches the eyes and ears of those who are in a position to change the wasteful state of affairs – that as an attention-grabbing, and well-meaning day it builds on the good work that the Portsmouth Food Partnership has been doing for several years.

Because while most people have got used to the idea that many resources – electricity, gas, water and so on – should be conserved where possible, the message hasn’t got through on food. Perhaps it’s too cheap, and perhaps it’s because there has thus far been no political will. If the feeding of the 5,000 can effect some change, it will indeed be a miracle worth celebrating.