King Charles celebrates 75th birthday by launching new food project

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s King Charles celebrated his 75th birthday on Tuesday and used the occasion to kickstart a new scheme to tackle food poverty and help cut the millions of tonnes of discarded food at the same time.

The king, who has spent more than five decades as an outspoken campaigner on environmental issues and supporter of a sustainable economy, officially launched the ‘Coronation Food Project’, his mission to try to stop people going hungry.

“Food need is as real and urgent a problem as food waste – and if a way could be found to bridge the gap between them, then it would address two problems in one,” Charles wrote in an article for the “Big Issue”, a magazine which is usually sold by homeless people.

The project says 14 million people in Britain face food insecurity, and the monarch, who has never been shy of commenting on social issues, said “too many families and individuals are missing out on nutritious meals due to the cost of living pressures that have caused hardship for so many”.

“To mark my 75th birthday in this Coronation year, I could ask for no greater gift than that the Coronation Food Project creates a lasting legacy to help others – and help the planet,” he wrote.

With his wife, Queen Camilla, Charles visited a surplus food distribution centre in central England where staff and volunteers sang a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” to him.

There were also traditional gun salutes in London and across the country, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Charles’ eldest son and heir Prince William posted messages on social media, wishing the king a happy birthday.

The BBC reported that his younger son, Prince Harry, who has become estranged from his father and the rest of the royals, would also speak to him by phone.

Later on Tuesday, Charles will also host a reception on Tuesday to herald the work of nurses and midwives, part of the events marking 75 years of the National Health Service.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by William James and Sarah Young)