Environmental groups hosted a free lunch in Portland Friday of a meal made entirely from foods that would have otherwise gone to waste.

"Feeding the 5000" is a worldwide event that took place in New England for the first time Friday. The goal is to change how people think about food waste and urge them to reduce the amount they throw away, by showing them ways to use that food.

"There's a certain type of stigma around if the food isn't in the food system, there's probably a reason for it," said Hannah Semler of Healthy Acadia. "To have that 'aha moment' and realize how delicious this stew is -- food that otherwise would have not gotten used, is an eye opener as well as a taste bud opener."

A coalition of Maine's nonprofit organizations, led by the Cumberland County Food Security Council, Healthy Acadia, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, teamed up with the UK-based Feed Back and the Rockefeller Foundation to help people learn about the impact of wasting food.

More than 200,000 Mainers suffer from food insecurity, according to Semler.

"People innately understand that food waste is a really important issue but also a solvable one. you see perfectly good food going to waste. You know it's bad, and you feel empowered to be a part of the solution," said Dominikia Jarosz, of Feed Back.

Semler said she and others are working on a national petition to change how "use by" and "sell by" labels are printed and determine, to avoid confusing consumers.

"We look at a date on a label and we just toss it without thinking about what that means. So we're bringing people in to eat and taste food that otherwise might get thrown out to say 'hey, maybe we should rethink the whole labeling on food," said Semler.