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.