In case you missed it, on the 30th of September, a 29 tonne pile of fresh vegetables, mostly carrots, appeared in the grounds of Goldsmiths University near Lewisham in London. This was part of a Master’s students art project- which you can read more about here.
Despite the fact that the artist has stated these vegetables were unwanted by UK grocery retailers, it caused a much wider issue and discussion around food accessibility and wastage in the local community and beyond. After reading this story, it made me question the ethics of an art installation of this nature, particularly given the issues surrounding food deprivation. It further raised questions regarding food wastage in the grocery sector, especially considering the artist had purposely sourced vegetables which were deemed unsuitable to be sold.
There was a strong reaction to this- particularly amongst students at Goldsmiths University and the local community, on social media. One group of students set up an Instagram page, where they utilised the publicity of the bizarre art installation to further highlight social issues surrounding deprivation in their local community. Using some vegetables from the installation, they baked cakes and made soups which were sold next to the art installation on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. After six days, they raised just over £1,600, with these funds split and donated to four food-related local charity projects to help support others in their community- Lewisham Food Bank, Peckham Soup Kitchen, Deptford Reach and Fare Share.
On first glance, this art installation appeared to be incredibly wasteful and in poor taste given that “Lewisham is in the top 20% most deprived local authorities in England” . However, after researching this further, I believe this has not only brought up an important discussion about food inaccessibility and poverty, but has also brought out the best of the community. The students as part of the @goldsmithcarrots group showed great initiative by creating a pop-up food stall, and created a community feel-good environment, whilst highlighting the incredibly important issue of food waste and poverty in the local area.
It certainly makes me think that more can be done in the grocery sector to prevent further food waste. Despite supermarkets making improvements towards food waste, such as rolling out ‘wonky veg’, which are vegetables which would normally not be sold due to their ununiform appearance, it still highlights ethical issues within the grocery industry.
I would really like to hear your thoughts on this story, has it made you feel differently towards the grocery sector? Thank you for reading!