Interview With Colin Sage of Cork Food Policy Council, first published in The Evening Echo 2014-3-11

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It may not be quite as miraculous as the biblical origin, but 5000 people will be fed for free on The Grand Parade as part of the St. Patrick’s festivities this Saturday. The event will mark the launch of The Cork Food Policy Council and raise awareness about food waste: “To highlight the issue of food waste we will be producing five thousand bowls of curry, and it will be made entirely from vegetables that are not being sold in the retails chains because they are considered “wonky”, maybe they are misshapen or don’t look the right colour.”

Colin is keen to clear up the confusion some people have about the idea of using ‘food waste’, “the food we will be using is in no way gone off or past their sell-by-dates, simply it’s because the food retail system has a very strict aesthetic codes about the food they sell, so these vegetables will be discards from the food industry system. They are considered waste in that industry even though they are in no way bad. What’s really important to remember is that these are not statutory guidelines, these are the preferences of retailers and their own strategies – for example around half of all the carrots grown in the UK are never eaten because they mightn’t be straight enough or long enough or maybe there is a little green bit at the top.”

While the event on Saturday will be the first time it has happened in Cork it is also one of the first places it has happened in the world, Colin explained the genesis of the decision to feed so many people at once, “the idea of feeding a big amount of people in this way was started by Tristram Stuart, the author of ‘Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal’ and a TED talk of the same name, with an event called ‘Feeding The 5000’in Trafalgar Square in 2009 and it has since been done a few times around the world such as  Paris, Amsterdam and last year in Dublin.”

However the Cork Food Policy Council have added twist to central idea to make it more of a community initiative, Colin continued, “we are retitling the event for Cork and call it ‘Feed The City’, as it will be the standout event of the day as we raise awareness of the Cork Food Policy Council. At 1pm it will be launched by Lord Mayor Cllr Catherine Clancy and she will be amongst the first people to be serving the bowls out.”

Colin explained how the issue of food and nutrition is very important to her and those concerns are what the CFPC are trying to engage with, “the Lord Mayor herself was quite keen on making food a bit of an issue for the City, and perhaps with the local elections coming up CFPC can take it forward. It often said here the Cork is the ‘Food Capital Of Ireland’, what we are trying to do is show that while it’s all very well making that kind of claim there are a lot of people living here who aren’t able to eat well. We are saying that if we are truly going to be the centre of food in the country, then we need to make sure everyone eats well, and has access to healthy food.”

The idea of communal gardening is important to the development of better eating in Cork, “people from the community gardens and allotments in The Glen, Knocknaheeny and Churchfield will be coming down to show what they have grown and talk about their experiences. That’s another thing the Cork Food Policy Council will be involved in, helping people share their knowledge and skills so more and more people can take part in it, and we’ll be looking to get more community garden sites going in the City. We can help people get access to land so that people can grow their own food”

Aside from the huge feed at 1pm, there is a programme of events starting from 10am until 4pm, Colin ran through what to expect, “it is above all a family-friendly event,  Tutti-Frutti community circus will be there from about 11.30am and there will be face painters on Grand Parade all day, so families can come along and take the opportunity to stroll along the food trail along the Grand Parade. There will be cookery demonstrations from people such as Denis Cotter, the founder of Café Paradiso; Mercy Fenton, who was the head chef of Jacobs On The Mall; and talks on subjects like planting seeds; how to make your own raised plant beds at home; composting all sorts of food wastage. There will be music and other entertainment on throughout the day, a nice day of conviviality, enjoying Cork, enjoying the company, enjoying the spectacle and of course enjoying the food.

Feed The City will take place from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 15 March. The full programme of events cane be found at http://www.corkfoodpolicycouncil.com

 

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