IT was an educational challenge that involved £400 worth of food including 200 chillis, 100 onions and 80 parsnips.

Three days of planning, one day of preparation and one day of cooking later a vegetable curry was ready to be served to up to 500 people.

And yesterday at Oxford’s Old Fire Station in George Street, 374 people polished off the lunch – created to show what can be made with food that would have been thrown away.

Organiser Paul Mocroft, from Oxfordshire Waste Partnership, said: “The curry was made from food that the supermarkets would have rejected because the box was damaged or there was a squashed tomato.

“We are trying to get people to think about wasting less at home.”

Mr Mocroft said on average £50 worth of food is wasted by an average household every month in the UK.

All the food used was donated by Fresh Direct – a Bicester-based distribution company that supplies fruit and vegetables to supermarkets.

The vegetable curry was a jalfrezi with rice made from chopped vegetables including cauliflower and carrot and naan bread made from stale bread, yoghurt and eggs.

Thirty volunteers helped serve on the day but the meal was prepared by a team of five helpers and two cooks.

In total 426 meals were dished out, with many people enjoying seconds. Larger helpings were given out towards the end of the two-hour lunch so nothing was wasted. Oxfordshire Waste Partnership is a group of the county and district councils which aims to increase recycling and reduce waste in the county.

Sonja Norris, 25, from the recycling team at Cherwell District Council, helped with the preparation of the food on Tuesday. She said: “I arrived at 1pm and finished at 9pm. By the end my hands were pretty sore and I was more than ready to come home. But I had some curry and it was delicious.”

Homeless people, charity representatives, councillors and passers-by tucked into the food yesterday. The lunch was free, but donations to Oxford Foodbank were encouraged.

Chef Ilja Harvey, 39, owner of Banbury’s Pudding Pie Cookery School where the curry was cooked, said: “This is the most amount of people I have cooked for who I have been solely responsible for. For me this is a major achievement.”