Food Fights: Wacky Fun or Wasted Food?

comments (6) July 23rd, 2012

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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Tomatoes are trucked in from out-of-state farms to serve as ammunition in Tomato Battle food fights.Click To Enlarge

Tomatoes are trucked in from out-of-state farms to serve as ammunition in Tomato Battle food fights.

Photo: John Pendleton

In early July several thousand people showed up at an outdoor soccer field in Denver to throw over-ripe tomatoes at each other. The Tomato Battle, similar to Spain's La Tomatina tomato celebration, is an hour-long food fight followed by live music and a day of fun.

Events like these are held on weekends throughout the summer in cities across the country. It's estimated from 80,000 to 300,000 pounds of tomatoes are used in each battle.

Am I a party pooper for thinking this is a terrible waste of time, food, and resources? I feel it's inappropriate to hold an event like this when hunger is such a pressing issue in our community.

As an organizer for the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign, I think it also sends the wrong message about the value of food in our culture.

I emailed Tomato Battle co-founder Max Kraner asking how the event's planning team rationalizes wasting thousands of pounds of tomatoes at each event. He replied:

"We thank you for your concerns. Hunger is a concern for everyone here at Tomato Battle. The tomatoes we use are past ripe (rotten) and damaged. These tomatoes are not edible and were going to be thrown out. We only use tomatoes that are not allowed to be sold in grocery stores or even given to the hungry. If you would have been at the event and smelled the tomatoes, you would understand why these cannot be eaten. The tomato waste after the event is then composted. I hope this will better educate everyone on tomatoes for Tomato Battle."

Even if the tomatoes are "surplus, bruised, past-ripe or unsalable goods" as reported in The Denver Post newspaper, the tomatoes were shipped to Colorado from out-of-state farms in Arizona and California. That still seems like a waste of resources to me.

As a vegetable gardener, what do you think? Please post your comments here.

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Comments (6)

WesternGardener writes: Thanks for all your comments--I appreciated hearing from you!
Posted: 2:22 pm on July 30th
sheepandwool writes: Maybe it's the Yankee in me, but....I cringe at the idea of wasting all that food. Considering that there are people right in this country that are forced to dumpster-dive for their meals, I just couldn't bring myself to participate in a food fight. In my household, I almost never throw any food away, and the little that does get thrown out, goes in the compost to nourish the next generation of plants. I almost never have a surplus of produce, but when it ever gets to that point, and I can't donate to a food pantry, I preserve every last bit.
Posted: 11:01 am on July 30th
Ruth writes: Yup, a frivolous waste of time, food, and resources. There are millions in the world who don't know where their next meal is coming from.
Posted: 10:57 am on July 30th
yardener writes: If you add some pasta, parmesan and basil, then man could live on it
Posted: 9:08 am on July 26th
WesternGardener writes: Hi Yardener:

Thanks for adding your thoughts. I like the idea that "man doesn't live on tomatoes alone."

Posted: 10:39 am on July 24th
yardener writes: It would be nice to do something more with the tomatoes but man doesn't live on tomatoes alone.
I guess my stand is that the tomatoes used are not MY tomatoes. They own 'em, they do what they want with 'em.
With bureaucracy the way it is, if you tried to deliver the truck load of over-ripe tomatoes to a shelter, they'd all be rotten by the time they were release to consume.
My thoughts.
Posted: 7:05 am on July 24th
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