September 22, 2015 by Staff Reporter
The Free Lunch which took place on the Esplanade of the European Parliament was by all accounts the largest food event outside the European Parliament ever. We served around 1000 people on the Esplanade and around 500 refugees camped out in Parc Maximilien received the surplus from the day.
All the organisations behind the event were involved in the sourcing and preparation of the food – but of course we also had professional chefs including Peter O’Grady of Food for All/Feeding the 5000. We estimate we used between 1-1 ½ tonnes of nourishing – and non-GMO! – plant-based food that would otherwise have gone to waste.
You may think that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But on September 29, 2015 a coalition of European NGOs are offering just that.
The Free Lunch is a culinary, cultural and political public event with MEPs, Commissioners, civil society and the public. A free plant-based lunch will be distributed on the Esplanade outside the European Parliament to members of the public and other attendees.
Not only is this lunch – which will be made from surplus or aesthetically imperfect vegetables – free of meat, dairy, egg, sugar, additives and GMOs, it will free up waste by using food that would otherwise be thrown away.
The event will highlight that fact that current EU food system – indeed the global food system – produces unacceptable quantities of food waste and that our consumption habits, in particular our over-consumption of animal-based foods, cause huge quantities of resource loss and environmental damage, not to mention untold and unnecessary suffering for animals and an increased risk of food-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
About 30 million tonnes of GM animal feed is thought to be imported into Europe each year to feed pigs, poultry, dairy and beef cattle, as well as farmed fish. Up to 60% of our livestock is fed on this imported GMO feed – mostly in the form of soya.
Our farmers are only too aware that they are feeding GMOs to their animals – because the feed itself is labelled. But the meat, milk and eggs from these animals that ends up in our supermarkets, is not – which means that the majority of consumers who oppose GMOs are unable to make conscious choices to avoid them (unless they buy organic).
While farmers and supermarkets say there is no alternative to GMO animal feed, in fact there is enough Brazilian GMO-free feed to meet demand, and this supply is increasing. What is more soya production in China and India is also 100% non-GM.
This multistakeholder event at the European Parliament will highlight that by changing the way we eat we can free ourselves from the multiple societal and environmental burdens of a wasteful food system.
The event is co-organised by the Humane Society International, Compassion in World Farming, Food for Life Global, Beyond GM and the European Parliament’s Sustainable Food Systems Group (a cross-party MEP/multistakeholder group in Brussels).
In addition to handing out up to 1000 free lunches we will also be providing food prepared during the event will be donated to the refugees camped at the Maximilian Park in Brussels.
In addition to being one of the organisers of the event, Beyond GM has produce a series of leaflets under the banner of Good Food Makes Everything Better.
These leaflets simply but powerfully show those who may never have thought broadly about food issues in a connected way how a sustainable food system – and ultimately a wide ranging sustainable food policy in Europe – could help to improve life for us all.
The first four are available online, and will be given out to all those attending the event and to key MEPs prior to the event.
Beyond GM Director Pat Thomas, who will be there on the day helping to serve up food, comments:
“It is so inspiring to work alongside other committed NGOs and MEPs to highlight the terrible waste that runs through the industrial food system. This waste extends beyond just what we throw away – though that’s bad enough. It reaches into areas such as wasted energy, wasted soil, wasted water and the wasted lives of animals. Human lives are wasted too, due to avoidable non-communicable diseases caused by a food system that favours high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrient processed food products over fresh foods. GMOs, of course, are a form of waste as well, since they waste valuable resources which could be directed into productive, sustainable farming. Joined-up thinking in the EU, directed at sustainable food production, could help us end this unacceptable cycle of waste.”