Are Tomato Battles Wasteful?

So nobody invited me to one of the many Tomato Battles sweeping the West Coast?? They must have known better.

These organized tomato fights a la La Tomatina seem like a lot of things: derivative, debaucherous, messy and fun. The real question–is it a big ol’ waste of tomatoes?

The group addresses the question on their FAQ page and dismisses it with a single word: “Nope.”

I am suspicious.

The FAQ page continues: the tomatoes “are past ripe and can’t be sold. They are inedible and are not fit for human consumption.” But those are often two different things. I’d bet many of the tomatoes used in battle would be perfectly fine to be used by soup kitchens to make…soup or a range of other things.

My overall reaction is that Tomato Battles are relatively harmless, albeit a bit lame on a few levels. To gather all those young people without taking advantage of the opportunity in any way, seems like the real waste. Gleaning is one idea, but there’s an even easier one that I can’t believe the organizers haven’t implemented: donating a portion of the proceeds to fight hunger. At $50 a head, seems like there’s plenty of room for generosity. How ’bout it, Tomato Battle?

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  1. Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Meh, I can’t get that worked up about this sort of thing.

    I mean, personally, I don’t find food fights interesting, and the amount of food wasted there actually makes me feel pretty uncomfortable.

    But on the other hand, there’s an argument to be made that the food there isn’t “wasted” – it’s being used, but in a different way, and if people enjoy it, maybe that’s cool. I’m not sure I entirely believe that argument, because you could extend the same logic to argue that food wasted at buffets or similar isn’t “wasted”, it’s just been used differently (as decoration/advertising/enticement, if you like). Hmm. Of course (and this is hardly an original point), going in the other direction, if you think any use of edible items that doesn’t involve humans eating them, then most current biofuel production is a terrible waste of food. Which it is, yes, but that’s a slightly different battle than the one you’re mostly fighting. (Not that I’m trying to tell you where to focus you’re campaigning effort, I’m just throwing some random thoughts out there.)

    Another thing that comes to mind is that it may simply be strategically unwise to get involved with this sort of thing. Posting this on the blog, especially in question form, I guess is fine, but I’d be concerned if mainstream media start using you in stories about tomato battles and similar as a talking head saying “I think this is a terrible waste of valuable food” – it might make the campaign against food waste look like humour-impaired spoilsports…
    (note that again, I don’t think that you’re doing this, or doing anything wrong at all, but I see a danger that the mainstream media might start spinning things in this direction if they think it serves their need for so-called ‘balance’)

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