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Celebrity chef helps bite back at food poverty

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2019-09-18 07:55
Chef Jeremy Pang (second left) says Chinese cooking is full of resourceful practices. [Photo by Ouyang Xueyan/China Daily]

British-Chinese celebrity chef Jeremy Pang served up a feast this week in London's Borough Market, where volunteers cooked more than 1,000 meals for people in need.

Under Pang's direction, the fourth annual Wok for 1,000 charity event saw 150 amateur cooks whip up vats of Asian curry, mounds of spring rolls, and more than 3,000 dumplings, all made with surplus ingredients from businesses at the popular food market.

The meals were then packed up and distributed to 10 charities around London that help feed the homeless and other people battling food insecurity.

"We came up with this idea four years ago, and it's grown a lot since then, with sponsors and other businesses getting involved," Pang said. "It's about pooling together to help the community."

Much of the ingredients at the event were sourced from surplus food destined for landfill, and, as they cooked, the volunteers learned helpful tips on how to cut down on food waste at home.

Pang, who is the founder of London-based Chinese and Asian cookery academy School of Wok, says Chinese cuisine is well-suited for home cooks looking to make the most out of their pantries.

"Chinese culture lends itself to less waste, because we've been brought up in our culture and in our families to never leave anything on the table, we see it as rude to waste food," said Pang, who has authored several cookbooks including Chinese Unchopped and The Hong Kong Diner. "Chinese food is made for using up everything in your fridge or your pantry. Chop everything up fine, season it, and put it in a spring roll or a dumpling. That's what this food is about."

This year's event was sponsored by Hong Kong-based life insurance company AIA Group and coorganized by United Kingdom charity Plan Zheroes, which helps businesses redistribute surplus food and reduce waste.

Each year, around 10 million metric tons of edible food goes to waste in the UK, according to the UK Waste and Resources Action Programme, or WRAP. Despite this surplus, many people are still going hungry in Britain.

A recent report commissioned by the UK government environmental audit committee found that the level of food insecurity in the UK is among the highest in Europe. The report estimates that nearly one in five UK children under the age of 15 lives in a home where parents cannot afford to put food on the table.

Food waste incurs significant economic, environmental and ethical costs. Globally, around 1.3 billion tons of food valued at $940 billion goes uneaten each year, according to WRAP, while, in contrast, 815 million people around the world struggle with undernourishment. And food waste accounts for 8 percent of global emissions, when factoring in greenhouse gases produced along the supply chain.

"This is a really important issue, there are so many people that face food poverty every day," said Dee Vadukul, business development manager at Plan Zheroes. "There is food that is being wasted, and there are people that need it, and that is what we are trying to fix."

Last year, Wok for 1,000 raised more than 7,000 pounds ($8,720) for Plan Zheroes through tickets sold to the volunteer cooks and other donations.

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