"Do you know why it's called Disco Soup?"
My new friend Tony is dancing as he shows me how to snap the end off a parsnip with ease. "It's because we make soup. And we listen to disco."
And to be fair to him, that's pretty much it. We're at local, sustainable street food space Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant & Castle, South London, for a night of cooking food from local shops, markets and producers that would otherwise have been tossed away.
The kicker – other than that the event is free – is that this is all happening to a soundtrack from Ministry of Sound DJs. One thousand people have been invited down to prep, eat and dance this mid September Friday evening,
The global movement was launched in Berlin (there, named 'Schnippeldisko') by the Slow Food Youth Movement. It spread to France and, with the help of food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart's charity Feedback, the US and the UK.
Now, if you're anything like me, eco-campaigning doesn't necessarily always scream 'big night'. But nothing feels more celebratory than making, preparing and eating food.
Feedback runs the event on a simple principle – that you need to have a better time saving the planet than ruining it.
"By having a party we're enlisting people to the cause," one of Feedback's campaigners, Pascale, tells me over the phone.
She's right. The tone of the night is fun and positive. It reminds you that however shitty you might feel about the state of the world there are people like Tony, trying to make things better, and dancing while they're doing it.
The problem they're trying to highlight is a serious one. One third of the world's food production is wasted, enough to feed three billion people.
Feedback was founded in 2009, launching with a huge event in Trafalgar Square titled 'Feeding the 5,000.' Here, waste veg was collected by volunteers, chopped and cooked and turned into enough soup to feed 5,000 people. Similarly to Disco Soup, the idea has been spread and events with the title have been held in the US, France, Ireland, with the next set due to happen in Toronto and Texas.
Sign up to make London's biggest Disco Soup ever happen this September: http://bit.ly/2x4Nfdr Effect, Feedback, The Brick Kitchen and Mercato Metropolitano bring you a night of surplus celebration, disco dancing from Ministry of Sound, and a Wonky Veg parade #londonfoodie #london #foodwaste #food52grams #food #freeevents #tastethewaste #discos #uglyveg #community #volunteer #ldn
But however good big stunts like Feeding the 5000 are at raising awareness, their long-term impact is limited. Pascale is keen to assure me that Feedback doesn't just do parties, it focuses its campaigning on supermarket food waste – counting a recent commitment by Tesco to halve the amount of food discarded in its supply chain as a victory.
Long-term improvements rely on policy change, and there has been some progress. French law, for example, now forbids supermarkets from throwing away food approaching its sell-by dates, and all supermarkets above a certain size were made to sign contracts with charities to donate any unsold produce. In the UK, MPs have called for a national food waste target.
Back to Friday. At some point during the night, a whole load of leeks arrived, picked that morning in Kent by Feedback volunteers. It's all part of what it calls its 'gleaning' network. It coordinates volunteers, farmers and (crucially) food redistribution charities, and, when those farmers decide it isn't worthwhile to harvest a crop – a supermarket might cancel an order, for example, or the veg doesn't fit the stringent aesthetic demands – Feedback swoops in and cuts it.
It's about to reach peak 'glean' season, one of the volunteers tells me, so it's all hands on deck.
Which may mean more parties, hey?
As I leave my inaugural Disco Soup to the strains of the DJ set, I'm happy to confirm that activism can, indeed, be fun, kids.
Keep an eye on the Feedback events listings page for details of the next Disco Soup.