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Freegans & Dumpster Diving


chezcherie
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I think it's hilarious that so many people are riled up.  When it comes to outlawing foie gras (note: Im from Chicago and think this ban is ridiculous), people are all for food choices; but hey when people eat food that would otherwise go to waste, suddenly people cant make their own food choices.  Now, I'm not freegan, not vegan, not vegetarian or any of that, but if people want to eat food that otherwise would end up rotting, whose to say they shouldn't.  But, I do agree with you on the sanctimoniousness, drives me nuts, and I do have to admit I have baited and argued with vegan/vegetarian friends more than a few times.  I guess I just feel as long as these people aren't stealing food, and are not taking food homeless people would have eaten, thern I dont see a problem.  They are endangering themselves, they are eating food that in some cases is probably horrendous and in other cases perfectly fine.  But, to each his own.  If  they drive you nuts, dont read the articles, ignore them.

People should be perfectly free to believe that freeganism is stupid and people should be perfectly free to believe that eating foie gras is stupid. Nobody is advocating outlawing freeganism like foie gras was outlawed. The two positions are morally consistant.

PS: I am a guy.

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I see nothing wrong with scavinging. I find goodies in the garbage can in my kitchen all the time. Many people are too hasty in discarding food which is in the process of mellowing.

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  • 2 months later...

Article in the Wahington Post.

Bryan Meadows's backpack lay open on the ground, bulging with bags of peanuts, a tub of chocolate-covered ginger and two loaves of bread. He tossed aside a few moldy pastries and was on his way back for more when he suddenly realized the jig was up.

"Can I ask what you're doing?" asked the Trader Joe's employee in a Hawaiian shirt.

Meadows was caught dumpster diving, though he is neither homeless nor destitute. He considers himself a "freegan" -- a melding of the words "free" and "vegan" -- meaning he tries not to contribute to what he sees as the exploitation of land, resources and animals wrought by commercial production.

Here in DC we have a long tradition of dumpster diving and alley scavanging; my son furnished our entire attic with "found" furniture. But finding dinner in a dumpster to protest consumerism and the Bush Administration? Isn't eating free-range chicken enough anymore?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I personally am more disgusted by throwing out food than I am by people who choose to eat what we don't. If it doesn't bother them, why on earth should it bother ANYONE?

Reluctantly (but only for the gross-out factor), I say "right on, dudes." Unless there is something inherently noble in being so privileged to live in a nation where we throw out enough food to feed a few small countries. And I bet we do.

Hear, hear! I am distressed by the self-righteous note from some of these posts: why is it inherently wrong for someone to live off the waste of others? The people who work at the recycling plant do it too, so does your garbageman or the person who vacuums out your septic tank. Being a freegan is just a bit more direct. Most of those who eat for free do so because they must, not because it tastes better than champagne and foie gras (although I can't understand the appeal of foie gras, myself, from both the taste and ethical standpoint).

Back when I lived in Vancouver's largest squatter community, we ate some fabulous meals from dumpster-dived ingredients and stuff from our community garden - Italian bread & tomato soup, endless smoothies, grilled fish and iced watermelon & papaya for dessert, with a tray of chocolate croissants from (yep) Granville Island Market. Nothing wrong with that! If you don't want it, why on earth shouldn't someone else have it and live off it? Is it offensive only because it reminds us of the horrific waste generated by our mode of food production/consumption?

Living off the leftovers is, in fact, the basis of a rural economy. Every self-sustaining farmer lives on it: Feed the family, trade the leftovers. The food I sell at the farmers' market is, in a very real sense, leftovers. We feed ourselves, we sell or trade or barter the rest.

If we're going to get self-righteous about something, shouldn't it be about the system that generates such appalling amounts of wasted food?

farming, brewing, drinking, eating: the best things in life.

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I have a lot of friends who dumpster, and some who live almost entirely off of dumpstered foods. I've eaten it, and most of it is pretty decent stuff. Some a little stale/icky tasting, but for free it's hard to complain.

I've only dumpstered once myself, as research for a story I was writing, and it was pretty fruitful, and hardly as gross as it may sound. I just walked up to a dumpster, grabbed a bag of bread off the top of it, and left. Didn't eat the bread, but it made a good meal for some birds :biggrin:

I've also seen waste from the other side, working in a restaurant. Most bread or pastries that we get are thrown out their second day. We waste lots of things like whipped cream and fruit too. Fortunately the kitchen staff takes home a lot of stuff, but there is still tons that goes to waste.

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I'm curious about something.

So many posters have mentioned that restaurant/hotel

staff who take home unused items that would have

been thrown away anyway, are treated as thieves.

Why was that policy created?

Milagai

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I'm curious about something.

So many posters have mentioned that restaurant/hotel

staff who take home unused items that would have

been thrown away anyway, are treated as thieves.

Why was that policy created?

Milagai

I would guess it is to discourage people from taking home unused items that wouldn't have been thrown away.

This happened in my school kitchen - the lunch ladies would say the food was gone, refuse second helpings, then bag up the leftovers and take them home to their families. I could see some workers hiding food, claiming good food was bad, etc., so a policy like this gets instituted. As always, it's a very small group of unscrupulous people that screws it up for the rest of us.

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Our back gate opens onto a tiny paved alley, behind a strip-mall which contains a VERY large grocery store. Though our back fence and gate are entirely shrouded in vines and twenty-foot shrubbery, I can hear and sometimes catch glimpses of a steady foot-and-car traffic, checking out the several big dumpsters behind the store.

When we step out to go around to pick up an item or two from the store, we usually see someone loading items into a car or even the bed of a pickup. And there's no yukky garbage smell coming from the site, though I'm sure meats and seafoods are thrown in when they're past date...someone must grab them up immediately and take them away.

AND---we HAVE retrieved items ourselves (do not grimace or laugh). There were once three turkeys, still frozen, with a "sell-by" date several days in the future; a whole tray of those Spunkmeyer muffins, neatly shelved on a rack, and sitting atop the side-load dumpster; frozen hams and entire shrink-wrapped pallets of ramen and dry beans and rice. We retrieved and cooked our first and only goose, solidly-frozen and Dickens-delicious when roasted with onions and prunes.

The bakery workers now roll out several grocery carts, park them in the shade, and do not toss the packages amongst the debris---I think that's a wonderful thing, and am glad to see and hear the people out there getting food for their families.

The muffins, ramen, and dry items, as well as the hams and turkeys, were taken immediately to our favourite charity, a convent which houses an elder-care facility. They are so sweetly grateful, and such dear, dedicated women, who lost one of their biggest suppliers, a local bakery, several years ago. A woman who had retrieved a cake from a the bakery's dumpster in another neighborhood sued for some imagined damages, won, and so caused the bakery to purchase their own compactors---so every item which could have gone to stock countless charity-kitchens, all the cakes and bread and rolls, are thrown in and smashed together with their plastic containers and wrappers.

What a waste, and what a shame.

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I'm curious about something.

So many posters have mentioned that restaurant/hotel

staff who take home unused items that would have

been thrown away anyway, are treated as thieves.

Why was that policy created?

Milagai

It's an unhappy scenario for management. One reason is that, yes, there's always some a$$hat out there who will try to sue over anything (thankfully, less so here in Canada). The other reason, though, is that if employees are permitted to take home leftovers THERE WILL ALWAYS BE LEFTOVERS.

Since leftovers=increased food cost=reduced profit, this is reason enough all on its own. I'm not saying that you can't do it - I've worked in smaller, independent places where it was done openly with the boss's blessing - but I don't think it's a good practice once you get past the point where the owner/chef/manager is always there in person.

Ensuring that production is just high enough is a difficult balancing act at the best of times. At my workplace, under the old manager, we kept our bakery displays full all day, and gave away hundreds of dollars worth of product every week to local charities. When the new manager came in, one of his first acts was to mine the POS system to find out what our sales were, hour by hour, for those products. It turned out that we sold only a handful of bakery items after 2PM every day, so now we cheerfully sell out around 2PM and move more durable products into the display.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I knew a fellow student in art achool 20 years ago that scouted the supermarket dumpster for discarded food. He had grown up in Africa where his parents were missionaries. After Africa, he claimed the food was in no worse shape than what they bought in the market. He had a really hard time with this food being discarded after dealing with conditions in Africa. I also think he didn't have a lot of money to spend on food or anything else. This university was in upstate NY where it was cold or cool most of the year, so he wasn't dealing with heat or the accompanying bugs of warmer weather. Some of it was in factory sealed packages and that he shared with others in the studio.

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Dumpster divers get 6 months in jail

One of the owners of a fresh produce store said Saturday that it is absurd that two men are in jail for taking spoiled fruit and vegetables from the store’s trash area.

[Two men] pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespass and were sentenced to spend six months in Routt County Jail and pay $15 in restitution to Sweet Pea Produce

[...]

The men admitted that they jumped a fence and took fruits and vegetables from the garbage area at Sweet Pea. They originally were charged with felony second-degree burglary and misdemeanor theft. They accepted the plea agreement offered by Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James, they said, because they did not want to risk being convicted of a felony.

[...]

St. James [...] was going to make an example of the men.

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  • 9 months later...

So it was 2001 and I was living in Philadelphia while going to Temple University. I was a poor college student with an equally poor boyfriend. He's from philly, but I on the other hand was maryland so I knew nothing about the tasty and delicious TastyKakes that were native to the city.

We heard marvelous things about tasty kake "reject" products being thrown into the dumpster behind the factory. Lo and behold we went there on a Saturday afternoon and found boxes and boxes of tasty kakes UNOPENED (that's the key word here) in the trash. So what do we do? We load up boxes of our favorite tasty kake products. We weren't the only ones there though. There were other cars full of other people ready to get their hands on some free food.

I know that after reading this post a lot of you are shaking your head or perhaps shaking your fingers at me, but hey the boxes were unopened and in perfect condition (they probably were trashed because of mislabeling) and they tasted fine. 6 years later I'm still alive and kicking.

Anyone else have any tales of shame? By the way rooting around in the dumpster (no it didn't stink and it was only filled with boxes and tasty kake products) was and still is illegal.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Dumpster diving has had quite a bit of press here in australia recently.

There are quite a few people who do it not only because it saves them money but also to make use of some of the apparently huge amounts of food that supermarkets waste.

To tread a little more lightly on the earth...

I think its a fine idea.

If i were after a little more adventure with my food I'd probably be doing it too. :wink:

How sad; a house full of condiments and no food.

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My son's the only one who's done any dumpster diving - behind a retail computer store.

I should have been checking behind Safeway down the street from me. I was looking for bananas, ones that are just ripening and ready to eat when I saw the stocker wheel a cartful towards the back. I asked if they were going on sale. He said, "No, they're going into compost." Apparently, as soon as "brown spots" appear, they are instructed to throw them out! :shock: I was too shocked to ask why these were not taken to the soup kitchen. :sad: I might have to speak to the manager next time I'm there.

Safeway never puts produce on sale. It all goes into compost. I can't believe that they'd say that to appease customers. I'm sure everyone would be happier to hear about contributions to the soup kitchen.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I find the double standard irksome, to say the least. On one hand, the Supreme Court held that those who discard trash relinquish their property rights to it. However, some states, like Oregon, disagree.

If anything, a consistent standard should be adopted. Either trash is yours, or it's not. If it's not, then 'freeganism' and police 'garbage pulls' should be equally allowable.

But perhaps this is way off-topic, and IANAL.

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

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We heard marvelous things about tasty kake "reject" products being thrown into the dumpster behind the factory.  Lo and behold we went there on a Saturday afternoon and found boxes and boxes of tasty kakes UNOPENED (that's the key word here) in the trash.  So what do we do?  We load up boxes of our favorite tasty kake products.  We weren't the only ones there though.  There were other cars full of other people ready to get their hands on some free food. 

I know that after reading this post a lot of you are shaking your head or perhaps shaking your fingers at me, but hey the boxes were unopened and in perfect condition (they probably were trashed because of mislabeling) and they tasted fine.  6 years later I'm still alive and kicking. 

Anyone else have any tales of shame?  By the way rooting around in the dumpster (no it didn't stink and it was only filled with boxes and tasty kake products) was and still is illegal.

Shaking my head or finger at you?!! Hell no!! I work just a few blocks from Tastykake but the last thing I need is to try and get mass quantities of them-- and for free yet?! :blink:

Also, I don't understand the reasoning behind it, but once I asked why the Metropolitan Bakery stand at the Reading Terminal Market doesn't donate the unsold bread at the end of the day rather than discarding it. I was told there were liability concerns. Maybe they could be sued if someone choked on the donated bread?

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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I'd be shocked if it really turns out to be true that places like Safeway or Whole Foods actually "compost" discarded produce rather than just throwing it away.

I have never dumpster dived but the guy who taught me the ins and outs of hopping freight trains (circa 1977 in Tuscon Arizona) also showed me where to get free lunch. Adjacent to the rail yards was a food distribution center that supplied convenience stores. If you knocked on the back door and asked politely the employees would pass along pre-made sandwiches that were past their "sell by" date and had been returned from stores for credit.

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Also, I don't understand the reasoning behind it, but once I asked why the Metropolitan Bakery stand at the Reading Terminal Market doesn't donate the unsold bread at the end of the day rather than discarding it. I was told there were liability concerns. Maybe they could be sued if someone choked on the donated bread?

How sad; a house full of condiments and no food.

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A friend of mine who lives in low income housing for seniors and disabled people in a town not far from Portland (OR), goes on what she calls the "produce run" every so often for her apt. complex. She says that, in her area, Albertson's donates surplus/past its prime produce and sell by date bread(s) while the Safeway says that it composts all of it. I don't think she believes what the Safeway management tells her, but I don't think she's physically able to dumpster dive if she wanted to check. She goes partly because, if she does, she and whoever else goes gets first crack at what they pick up. She gets some good stuff sometimes.

This complex also has some raised beds so she is able to grow some veggies and a few herbs every year.

azurite

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