Prague centre free lunch event draws attention to food waste

Photo: Adam Podhola

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. However, on Tuesday hundreds of people lined up to receive just that in the centre of Prague, as part of an event aimed at highlighting the wasting of food both by supermarket chains and in the home.

Photo: Adam Podhola
Hundreds of people – including students, the homeless and curious passersby – queued at the bottom of Wenceslas Square in the early afternoon to receive a free bowl of tasty-looking vegetable curry. The event was organised by Zachraň jídlo (Save Food), a group that combats the wasting of food. It was a hit with diners.

Old woman: “It’s excellent. It should be held again! Because we all know that food is wasted everywhere possible, from supermarkets to airports.”

Old man: “It’s good. If you look in a container, you’ll see bread or bread rolls. Food is a product of nature and a product of man, and, generally speaking, people just don’t respect that fact.”

Zachraň jídlo’s Adam Podhola was the chief organiser of Tuesday’s “Lunch for a Thousand”, the first event of its kind in the Czech Republic.

Adam Podhola,  photo: Masha Volynsky
“We have enormous food waste here, and there is almost nobody that would really tackle that issue. So we really want to bring this issue up in Czech society and start talking about it – and maybe really do something about it.”

Are Czechs really so wasteful of food? They seem to me to be quite careful people, who don’t waste their money.

“I think that’s partly because of our past. Under the Communist regime there was not really that much food on the shelves. And the generation of my grandparents at least had to think about it. But I think after the fall of communism and all of these supermarkets and all of this capitalism came in, with all of the goods that we can now afford, we kind of lost this sense of responsibility, to think about how we can at least save food and the natural resources that are needed to produce all of these goods.”

Where did you get the food that’s being served here today?

“We got it mostly from supermarkets and farmers. This food would eventually have been thrown away, because the date of expiration was approaching and the supermarkets couldn’t sell it anymore. Or the farmers had overproduction, so they just donated it to us.”

Roman Vaněk,  photo: Tomáš Řehák,  CC BY-SA 3.0
Supporting Tuesday’s event was Roman Vaněk, one of the country’s best known chefs. He was keen to draw attention to a hurdle that supermarkets face if they want to donate goods to charities or NGOs.

“The problem is when they want to give anything, to give, to anybody, whether the Salvation Army or whoever, they have to pay VAT on it. This is stupid and it’s why I’m here to shout over this city, over this square, to say to everybody, let’s start to think, OK? Let’s push the guys at the top to do something, because we’ve had supermarkets here for more than 20 years and we haven’t changed the law. This is the main point.”