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Mind-boggling quantities of cheese

March 24, 2010

What do you do with somewhere between 150kg and 300kg of cheese?

This was the question which landed in my inbox when I was wrestling with an article about food aid and famine relief. What clearer demonstration do you need that famines don’t occur because there isn’t enough food but because people can’t access food?

My friend, who has all this cheese, works for the charity Food Cycle – essentially they collect food that would otherwise be thrown away from supermarkets and other businesses, then a team of volunteers uses it to cook a delicious meal for homeless shelters and other community projects. I helped out a couple of weeks ago, and it was inspiring to see all this food being put to good use, but utterly depressing to think how much other food must just be wasted all the time.

Like 150 tubs of ricotta, for example.

There were crates of fruit and veg, most of which was in perfectly good condition, and leftover sandwiches from places I can’t afford to buy lunch. Seeing a fridge in a homeless shelter piled high with packs of sushi was really quite surreal.

Wasting this stuff would be normal – a phenomenal amount of effort has gone into setting up these projects. Some supermarkets deliberately spoil their food before throwing it away to discourage homeless people taking it from their bins. So much surplus food, thoughtlessly thrown away; so many hungry people and not just faceless famine victims in some faraway country, but right here, in Britain, in London, down the road from businesses that are throwing tonnes of food away every day…

Between 150kg and 300kg of cheese. The world is mad.

As I have said before, one of my favourite food books of all time is Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel. It really made me see that food shortages in the global South (and on our doorstep) and overconsumption and waste in the North weren’t contradictory at all, but different sides of the same coin – structural inequalities, market forces, poverty, subsidies encouraging overproduction in the North, trade policies encouraging developing countries to grow cash crops for export, the damn food industry… Raj Patel is not the messiah. But, dammit, I’m so fired up about this I’m tempted to take a leaf out of the book of the man who has been teargassed on four continents and run some crazy publicity stunt to highlight how crazy the whole system is…

Cheese is inherently comic. There’s even a groan-inducing ‘crackers’ joke just itching to be used in some press release or other. We could have a bring-your-own-wine and cheese party and ask for donations for FoodCycle…. Host a MASS CHEESE GIVEAWAY somewhere really public (or at least at SOAS) to raise awareness….

I mean, we have somewhere 150kg and 300kg of cheese. The possibilities are endless.

Any more suggestions?!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 11:15 pm

    Fondue to Fight Hunger. Everyone donate to FoodCycle for a dip in the pot.

    Seriously, fondue is the way to go. 20p suggested donation for a dip.

  2. Hannah permalink
    March 25, 2010 8:57 pm

    Tomorrow’s event will be pretty small-scale, but there will probably be plenty more cheese where this came from. We could totally plan a bigger fondue/crazy stunt/whatever event at some point in the future and have a bit more time to organise it.

  3. July 29, 2010 1:57 pm

    Mmm cheese. I know, the food industry has gone mad. I hope you managed to do something icnredible with that lot! šŸ™‚

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