Tuesday, 11 November 2008

My first freegan encounter

While waiting at the supermarket checkout on Sunday, I was idly flicking through a mag on all things green. And in there was an article on the food fad known as ‘freeganism’.

If like me you went “Eh”? after reading that, here is an definition from Wikipedia. “Freeganism is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources".

What it means is that the “lifestyle involves salvaging discarded, unspoiled food from supermarket dumpsters (and other dumps) that have passed their display date but haven't passed their edible date. They salvage the food not because they are poor or homeless, but as a political statement*.”

I was fascinated (and revolted) by the concept, and read some more on it. Apparently, the movement started in the 1990s. And those who practiced freeganism weren’t poor or needy, but they got a kick out of getting something free and also by saving money on food bills and doing their bit to save the planet. It was a choice they’d made.

Hmm, I’d never heard of it (or seen it) before Sunday. Or had I? In the recesses of my brain, a memory stirred.

Me, a young girl, just heading out of a kalyana chatram (marriage hall) with my thatha (grandfather). No sooner had we taken a few steps, when behind us there was a noise. I turned to see the banana leaves, bearing the remains of the previous pandhi's (batch) of meals were being tossed out - on to the pavement of course. That the pavement also doubled as the junk bin was accepted fact. As though that action had flicked on a switch, there was immediate action. A few skinny lads running to the leaves, pushing each other out of the way, shouting, fighting, before grabbingng on to a few leaves each and furiously shoving the food from the leaves into their mouths.

“Thatha, they are eating from yechal elai,” I said, tugging at thatha’s hand. I mentally cringed too – I had wasted some food when I was at lunch there. Maybe it was my yechal, leftover food that those boys were eating.

A sad, resigned look came over thatha’s face. “Yes, they are poor boys and unless they eat this food, they won’t get any food at all today,” he said.

For those boys, freeganism wasn’t a choice, it was survival.
* Apparently, the US wastes, in some form or the other, 50% of all food produced there. I wonder if Mr Obama knows this;-)


Anonymous said...

I didn't know about this term. The exp date on most foods in US (from what I read) is really put being on the very cautious side - that means you can eat most foods atleast 2-3 days past the exp date. Of course, what I read may be totally wrong..

About the people who need to eat from left over food (yechai thattu) ... i cannot imagine anything more tragic.. just y'day I was watching a documentary about some place in Hongkong where they recycle e-waste in a very primitive way and how toxins enter their body.. it was very touching..

Pollux aka Paps said...

Hi Vid: yes, the term was new to me, but obviously not the concept. All of us must have seen soemthing of this back home. it would be the best thing if we had no more of it left back home.

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