The efforts of a group of Calgary chefs were offered to thousands of passerbys and curious onlookers at Olympic Plaza on Tuesday as part of a worldwide push to reduce waste and rescue food items destined for bins.

“This is our second Feed the 5,000 event,” explained Andrew Hewson, lead chef for the lunch. “It’s a global initiative to raise awareness around food waste in our food system. From the producer level to the retail level to home -that whole chain -there’s always some level of food waste or overbuying and not being able to use it.”

The chefs prepared five different dishes utilizing food that had neared the end of its shelf life.

“This is an event to showcase ways to use some of that produce or those ingredients that you bought too much of and you’re not quite sure what to do with,” said Hewson. “They still taste good, they might not look very pretty, but there’s still tons of nutrition in them.”

According to organizers, approximately 6,700 portions were distributed at the 2017event, saving more than 1,000 kg from the landfill. The group was hoping to hand out more than 5,000 lunches this year alongside an education in the true cost of food waste including the farmer’s time, the fuel used in agriculture and shipping, and the storage of the products.

“When you show them the graphs and the numbers, it’s a bit of an eye opener,” said Hewson. “They take it back with them, back to their own kitchens and just reevaluate when they go to the store and make sure that they don’t buy that flat of tomatoes because they’re on sale.”

Hewson says the lunch of rescued food isn't a tough sell in downtown Calgary. “As soon as the word gets out that there’s free food somewhere, people find it. "As soon as the word gets out that there’s free food somewhere, people find it.”