Dumpster diving: ‘I’ve found delicious tofu, cheese, eggs — that’s still food!’

A couple of barfblog readers sent on a link to coverage of Calgary (that’s in Western Canada) dumpster diving club, YYC Dumpstering, who salvage disposed food from businesses – and give it away to the hungry.

Dumpster diving, or freganism, has been around for a while but the current movement gained momentum through restauranteur (and Against Me! drummer) Warren Oakes’ magazine, Why Freegan?

CBC Calgary cites YYC Dumpstering member Ian Wearmouth as saying "We live in a throw out society, 1.3 billion tonnes of food got thrown out last year in the States alone."

Wearmouth is not homeless, but he is so upset that so much food wasted, he formed an online club of activist dumpster divers.

Raz Paulson is one of a dozen members of YYC Dumpstering.

“I’ve found delicious tofu, cheese, eggs — that’s still food!" he said.

Club members avoid trespassing, but target commercial dumpsters where they find just about everything including food that is still sealed and perfectly good to eat.

They get so much food, they’ve started giving it away. They have also started a second charity to cook and re-distribute food to homeless people.

In the accompanying video Wearmouth points to a pan full of bruschetta mix (fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and oil)  and says "you could put that on a sandwich or something." Diced tomatoes (covered by a flimsy piece of Saranwrap) under a bunch of dripping waste, left outside in the sun for a few hours (even in Calgary) is a recipe for pathogen growth.

But if the divers are comfortable with the risks, go for it.

Where it falls apart is giving the dumpster-salvaged food away to needy folks who may not be provided with enough information to make risk/benefit decisions:  this food is free, but because we don’t know how it was handled, and can’t cook many toxins out of it, it might make you barf.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.