As a lover of all things edible, I've dedicated a big portion of my life to cuisine and learning as much as I can about health and nutrition. One of the hardest parts of being a white privileged North American is seeing how broken our whole food system is. In a world where there is so much abundance why is there so much food scarcity and waste? Most of the time our supermarkets keep their garbage hidden from view so we don't see how much goes to the landfill. The numbers that have recently come out puts North Americans right at the top for the biggest wasters. Reports say we waste a staggering 70% which is mostly perishable foods like fruits, vegetables, bread, dairy and meat. Most of this food isn't making it to the people who really need it and simply ends up locked away.
Living in the Kootenays these past two winters I found a couple dumpsters through word of mouth and decided to see how much food I could salvage and keep out of the landfill. I'd done some dumpster diving before travelling through the United States and found that I could live almost entirely off what I collected. So this would be a Canadian experiment into seeing the variety and amounts of edible products being tossed.
The results after just a few weeks visiting this same Superstore dumpster blew my mind. Not only did I have enough to eat, I also could share it with all my close friends and persevere enough for years to come. I usually only needed to go once or twice a week and there was never one day where I was left empty handed. My friend lived in a cooperative living property so distributed what we couldn't eat to the other families. I usually just dove for fruits and vegetables and made giant potlucks for whoever came by. I also canned and pickled all sorts of vegetable that lasted through the rest of the year.
There was always something new everyday that pushed my recipes and imagination in different directions. I was amazed and appalled at the same time that most of the food was completely fine and not even rotten. The ones that were sad looking I'd process and cook what was left. I probably spent about 10 to 20 minutes a week on urban foraging all this bounty and lived off it fully for 4 months. This brought feelings of freedom and happiness from saving money and reducing the amount that got wasted but it also left me heartbroken. There was this deep sadness that came with the realization of how insane our whole world economy is. We spend all this time and energy to grow something, only to have it rot away because we are so spoiled by the abundance of options and we can distribute it to those that really need it.
Diving into dirty dumpsters may sound gross but what's even more disgusting is the way governments allow this to happen, along with the spraying of toxic chemicals that turn out earth into a barren wasteland. Meanwhile slavery is still alive and strong in the form of taking advantage of migrant workers and offering them little pay or benefits for feeding us. For the rich 1% every type of delicacy imaginable gets shipped across the world wasting even more energy and spiking green house gas emissions.
As a Canadian living on Vancouver Island I know that we have some of the most fertile and abundant lands on Earth yet we don't grow nearly enough of our own food in traditional organic methods of permaculture. Working with Mother Earth and the land is the way of the future and our only way to feed everyone and save humanity. Grow your own garden, shop local, don't buy foods from across the world that we can grow ourselves. Eat mostly vegetables and more simply and sustainably while supporting organic, non gmo, fair trade farmers. Forage foods and herbs from your surrounding environments and reconnect with the ocean and land. Challenge to norms and let the politicians and cities know how you feel about food waste and use your buying power to make a change. These are just a few ways we can all join together and curb food waste while strengthening out economy, food security and health of the Earth.
We truly are what we eat and if we fuel our bodies with the healthiest energy there is we empower ourselves and this Earth and create a more connected and resilient future.
Love and Light,