Could the food in your garbage help fight food insecurity?

A group of food security activists and experts hosted an event, Feed the 5000, on Thanksgiving Sunday to raise awareness about food waste in the GTA.

Food security activists in Toronto highlight how re-purposing or buying ugly food products can reduce waste

Feed the 5000 is a one-time event as part of a larger innovation program, but the idea is to inspire people to think twice about buying and throwing out food. (Chris Laganzarde/CBC)

What can you do with oddly shaped fruits and vegetables discarded by grocery stores or leftovers from your own kitchen? Feed 5,000 people, according to a group of food security activists.

The group, which includes celebrity chef Bob Blumer and the Second Harvest charity, hosted the event Feed the 5000 on Thanksgiving Sunday to raise awareness about food waste in the Greater Toronto Area.

Feed the 5000 is a global movement that started in the United Kingdom. The Toronto edition saw community members pour into Unilever plant in the east end for a free meal prepared by celebrity chefs made from products many may have thrown out.

Food Network host Bob Blumer told CBC News approximately a billion pounds or more than four million kilograms of food wasted every year in the GTA.

The feed the 5000 event at the Unilever plan in Toronto offered community members a free meal made from discarded food products. (Chris Lazangarde/CBC)

That much waste, he says, comes from individuals throwing out usable food from their kitchen without knowing how to re-purpose it. 

"You can make smoothies with fruits that don't look so good and are getting overripe, you can make soups, you can make fritattas — the flavour is all there," Blume said. 

But the problem goes beyond individual kitchens, he says.

"A lot of the problem is industrial. It's that consumers aren't willing to buy the ugly fruits and vegetables and because the grocery stores know this, they don't even stock them." 

An oblong orange, crooked eggplant, bent pepper may not look polished, but can go a long way to ending food insecurity, some experts say.

Debra Lawson, the executive director of Second Harvest, says they partner with food markets and grocery stores to pick up discarded foods that are fresh and ripe each day.

"We can feed more than 5,000. We feed 30,000 people a day with the food that we pick up," Lawson said. 

Food Network's Bob Blumer prepared a meal at the Feed the 5000 event, showing how individuals can use food they would normally throw out to make delicious meals. (Chris Lazangarde/CBC)

Feed the 5000 is a one-time event as part of a larger innovation program, but Lawson says the idea is to inspire people to think twice about buying and throwing out food. 

"Behaviour has to change at the consumer level and at the individual level. When you recognize that fifty-one per cent of food goes to waste because of individuals, you have to change how you shop. Do you overbuy? Is that why you're throwing things away? Do you use half a cucumber and then forget about it? It all adds up," Lawson said.