Cheung Chau Bun Festival gets in the mood for good food

Cheung Chau's floating parade this year breaks tradition to include 'Jamie Oliver' to promote healthy eating and the reduction of food waste

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 3:40am

An unusual twist is in store at this year's Cheung Chau Bun Festival parade, with a little Jamie Oliver taking part in the festivities.

The Piu Sik, or floating parade, usually includes only local-themed floats, but this Friday's festival embraces Oliver to share the message of healthy eating and reducing food waste, as part of the Cheung Chau Women's Association's float.

This is the first time that children not fully Chinese have been invited to take part, with the British celebrity chef being played by six-year-old Jamie Newell, and his brother Ellis, five, taking on the role of the humble farmer.

"We need to cherish our food resources," said Beatrice Chan, the Hong Kong ambassador for Oliver's Food Revolution, who sold the idea to the association. "Beatrice approached us … and it really aligned with what we're trying to do," said association member Mealoha Kwok Wai-man, 40.

Kwok said more than 600 families on the island had been bringing their food waste to the association, which turns the leftovers into fertiliser.

"Because of the seafood, it makes great compost," said Chan.

The women now have more food waste than their two recycling machines can handle.

Hong Kong generates more than 3,200 tonnes of food waste a day, according to NGO Feeding Hong Kong.

The Environmental Protection Department's 2011 estimate was more than 3,500.

Food waste now makes up as much as 40 per cent of the waste dumped in landfills every day.

Oliver has since 2010 been on a mission to bring healthier food and good eating habits to communities around the world as part of his Food Revolution.

"Cooking skills used to be passed down from generation to generation, but now millions of people lack even the most basic cooking skills. We need to get back to basics: to cook and eat fresh local produce; to share cooking skills and food knowledge; to join forces within communities and get as many people involved as possible," wrote Oliver on the Food Revolution site.

"Food Revolution Day is our opportunity to get the world to focus on the importance of good food and essential cooking skills, by rallying our efforts to empower people with better cooking skills and to inspire them to cook fresh food from scratch."

May 17, designated as this year's Food Revolution Day, coincides with Buddha's birthday.

During the Bun Festival, Cheung Chau residents often go vegetarian. Even the local McDonald's serves veggie burgers.

The Piu Sik is part of Cheung Chau's century-old festival - held every year to ward off evil spirits - which draws more than 30,000 revellers to the 2.45 square kilometre island.

Although its origins are unclear, popular belief has it that the festival, which revolves around the Pak Tai Temple, began in the late 19th century after an outbreak of a plague.

The parade has often been used by the community to comment on social issues. In 2011, the villagers used it to chastise the government about its handling of the HK$6,000 handout.

The first Food Revolution Day was on May 19 last year.