In 2011, Hong Kong residents threw away around 3,600 tonnes of food waste. This is equivalent in weight to 250 double decker buses every 24 hours. Hong Kong seeks to radically redress this situation, reducing municipal landfill from its 2011 level by 40% per capita by 2022. The XCHANGE: Social Gastronomy project was founded in an existing art space to work with communities to reach this target. It harnesses elements from design, sport and food culture to raise the public awareness of the socioenvironmental issues. It encourages sharing and better use of resources to construct a sustainable ecology in the community with the aid of design.
XCHANGE: Social Gastronomy lives at Oi!, a historic building-turned-art venue opened in 2013 on Oil Street, at the former site of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club clubhouse. It consists of an open kitchen and community space initiating changes and new practices in the contexts of everyday life. The public are welcome to bring fresh ingredients, canned and packaged food to the XCHANGE kitchen in exchange for a signature drink or a bowl of ‘Beauty Soup’ which is promised to ‘nourish you deeply with the good will of treasuring food’. The collected food is then used in Social Gastronomy activities or shared with those in need. Food runners recruited from the community collect leftovers from nearby food markets on a weekly basis. Local musicians perform during some meals as well as giving monthly acoustic performances. Participatory dining experiences, led by a host who demonstrates design thinking in preparing food, are offered to encourage the public to reduce waste. The experimental, community nature of the project fits with Oi!’s wider purpose as an incubator for young artists and a platform which encourages co-creation in art. Oi! is in turn supported collaboratively by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong, the Circus Academy and Jockey Club Design Institute for Innovation, part of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In this way, a wide group of city institutions contribute to a shared effort to improve Hong Kong’s environment.
This engaging, arts conscious approach encourages communities to come together around the uniting strands of food, music, design and sport, transforming them from a passive audience into active, creative participants in the pursuit of green living. XCHANGE: Social Gastronomy is transformative not just through the food that the project itself collects and upcycles, but through a much larger effect as it changes minds and attitudes in surrounding communities.