Lately I’ve been having sudden cravings to get offline and do to things with my hands which don’t involve a keyboard. With several people in town we hosted a community dinner as a way to take action against something happening every day under our noses - massive good food throwaway. By households, restaurants, markets and especially supermarkets, by you, by your family, by your neighbor, by me. We collected food close to being dumped and got people to cook together and share a meal while interacting heavily around the issue.
I won’t ramble about why it’s important we pay more attention to food overall - from where and how far it comes from, the cost of having nicely chopped avocados on a restaurant plate, to how we pick stuff off the supermarket shelves and never wonder where the brown bananas are going, to how we realize our canned peas are overdue after having been hidden in overstuffed fridges or pantries (it’s a trap!). You know this already, right?
Food Waste Combat in Cluj (FWC) is a local collective experimenting with creative ways to address the issue, and I joined them for many selfish reasons, but mostly because I’d like to see food activism reach educated, resourceful urbanites. I’m one of them and I think as a group we can do better. We’re well positioned to use a tiny bit of our time doing something other than work, other than expensive hobbies, other than just consuming. It seems teaching each other how to eat is a pretty low hanging fruit.
More photos here.
We set up a 60 people afternoon event in a week, in a very lightweight mode.
I think it’s worth sharing why and how we did it:
- Context exists - a Repair Cafe Week full of activities in town and already talking about circular economy. That helped promote the event in only a few days time in a period quite busy for Cluj, helped it be part of a bigger mobilization and also get some media attention.
- Large enough venue is available - The Paintbrush Factory, a former factory-turned-contemporary-art-collective has a cosy room for events equipped with minimal cooking infrastructure; we were able to bring add-ons with no problem (except the lights going off for like an hour, but well, can’t plan it all! :-))
- Crazy levels of enthusiasm and capacity are just.. there! I don’t know if it’s the food effect, but so many people chimed in and brought own assets to the table: Cimbru, a local food truck with patient cooks helping everyone find a role; Casa de Cultura Permanenta, a local open house already prototyping circularity in every possible way! and their resident volunteers; FWC team coordinating on an online wiki to plan and split tasks; photographers supporting the cause; Local markets and a large shopping centre donating throw away food and also pretty decent one! It took us up to two hours to collect 35 kg of fruit and vegetables. You spend more time getting to and from locations than on the actual food collection.
- Outstanding community connectors gently nudging everyone - how else could you mobilize effortlessly a team of teams?! @Ponyo is one of them for sure.
- Some pocket money is available - we spent 200 Romanian lei (<50 EUR) in cash shopping for extra ingredients. That’s it, the rest of the funding was in kind (think small contributions like cooking tools brought from home, venue and electricity offered for free, gas to get to the venue etc).
- Saturday afternoon time - people were available, they came and enjoyed working in the kitchen or just hang out as you’d usually do on weekends.
- Appetite for food, drinks, conversation - we had 5 lovely courses including desserts (will just say: La Bonbonniere :P), a variety of locally sourced drinks and pretty diverse people, although mostly young.
We got hold of things like kiwis, lemons, green salad and baby spinach in too decent shape. Such good food is dumped every single day!
We’d love more people to join, run events or just wave, from here and from the Internet.
We’re thinking of hosting more intimate meals cooked from our own food surplus but for extended friends circles, then gradually expand so the new people coming in at every step are immersed in an already knowledgeable group. I have a hunch this favors deeper learning and behavior change. Another thing we’d like to do is move forward with Yello Fridge (community based, outdoor and public) an idea that only needs a neighborhood space to get started.
I’d also be curious to hear if you’ve participated in similar food related events. Do you have advice for how to run community dinners regularly and outstandingly?