Itamar Gilboa surrounded by his food sculptures. Itamar Gilboa surrounded by his food sculptures. Itamar Gilboa embarked on a large-scale sculpture project after taking an inventory of what he ate for a year. (Photo: Courtesy of Itamar Gilboa)

Artist documented everything he ate – then turned it into a massive sculpture project

From food to art and back to food again: Itamar Gilboa's yearlong journey turns into a mission to end world hunger.

One hundred twenty-two cucumbers. Five hundred sixty-seven slices of bread. One hundred fifty-five lemons. One hundred twenty-three liters of Diet Coke. Three figs.

No, that's not the world's most random grocery list. It's actually a sampling of one year's worth of food consumed by Itamar Gilboa, an Israeli multimedia artist living in The Netherlands for the past decade. It's an extensive inventory that Gilboa has turned into a unique sculpture project, which spotlights an issue close to Gilboa's heart: world hunger.

When Gilboa moved from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam, he saw a change in his diet. Where he once lived on hummus, olives and other staples of the Mediterranean diet, he now found himself consuming more cheeses, meats, breads, soft drinks – and wine. So he decided to document this change the only way he knew how – through art.

Artist Itamar Gilboa documented his food intake for one year, and then created sculptures of each item.Artist Itamar Gilboa's Food Chain Project was created to raise awareness of global hunger and food waste. (Photo: Nenad C)

First, he kept a meticulous diary of everything he ate and drank for one year. After he did this, he began to research food consumption around the world and made some startling discoveries:

  • 6.5 million people in The Netherlands are overweight.
  • 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year around the world.
  • 1 billion people suffer from hunger around the world.
  • There are more hungry people in the world than there are people in the United States and European Union combined.

"Before I started this project, I wasn't fully aware of the issues around the world," Gilboa told From The Grapevine. "I knew there was hunger in the world. I was reading the news and learning like anyone else, but I never really did dive into the obesity or the waste issue. So it was only after completing the project ... that I got more and more involved in and aware about these issues."

Aside from those grim statistics, Gilboa was also "flabbergasted" by how much he, alone, could eat in a year.

"I was so shocked at the quantity of what I ate, it influenced the way I ate afterward," he said. "So that led me to dive more into information related to food ... so I really wanted to find a way to present it so that people can also be aware of their own consumption."

At the year's end, he began creating white, true-to-size plaster models of each grocery item he ate. After completing the sculptures – more than 8,000 of them when all was said and done – he put them on display in several pop-up art installations around Amsterdam, an endeavor he dubbed the Food Chain Project. The goal, he says, is "to raise awareness and generate a wider discussion on global food issues."

An example of what Itamar Gilboa ate in a day.Gilboa created sculptures of everything he ate in one year. (Photo: Courtesy of Itamar Gilboa)

Visitors to the installation can purchase the grocery sculptures. People can also go online and buy the sculptures on the project's website. Seventy percent of the proceeds of the sculpture sales go to two Netherlands-based food organizations (NGOs) Gilboa believes in – Fair Food International and the Youth Food Movement.

Visitors browse through Itamar Gilboa's art installation in Amsterdam.Visitors browse through Itamar Gilboa's art installation in Amsterdam. (Photo: Courtesy of Itamar Gilboa)

Now, Gilboa hopes to expand the project beyond The Netherlands, perhaps finding space in the U.S. to exhibit his work and sell his sculptures.

"I would love to be able to take the project out of The Netherlands, because I think [the U.S. is] a really important place to discuss food and consumption and obesity and waste, and the project can be a very practical and successful tool in order to make this discussion," he said.

"I'd like to think of it as a food chain, because this is art that can be turned back into food, in the form of donations for the NGOs," he said.

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