While I was drinking a cup of chamomile-lavender tea at the lovely place ‘de Ontdekking’ [Voorstraat 110, Utrecht], a friend of mine told me about her Master thesis research. She studied Anthropology and is now doing research about food waste. To be more specific, about the phenomenon ‘dumpster divers’. Probably the image of a homeless guy with a wild grey beard and loads of plastic bags in his hand just popped into your head. These people are forced to do so out of economic necessity. But the kind of dumpster divers I want to address in this article are not quite like that. There are also people who dive in dumpsters for other reasons.
There exists a dumpster divers culture with people who self-identify as ‘freegans’. Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that had been discarded. It’s often seen as a part of a wider anti-consumerist ideology. Freegans aim to reduce their ecological footprint by living exclusively from dumpster dived-goods.
In the line of this, many many irregular, blemished or damaged items that are still otherwise functional are regularly thrown away. For example discarded food with minor imperfections or food that is near its expiration date but is still perfectly edible. Unfortunately in the current society many retailers are reluctant to sell this stock. Either because if they sell it at reduced prices they risk that people will by these items instead of the higher priced newer stock or because of rules and regulations concerning liability risks. Luckily by now there are a lot of people making an effort to change this. The perfect example is Restaurant Instock [Polonceaukade 9, Amsterdam] and the Instock Toko [Ferdinand Bolstraat 88, Amsterdam].
“At Instock we serve dishes created with ‘the harvest of the day’. This harvest consist of surplus food that we collected that morning with our electrical food rescue car at Albert Heijn supermarkets. These are not expired products but for example bread of one day old or fruit and vegetables that do not meet the quality standard. With these ingredients our chef create different surprising dishes every day. The philosophy behind the name Instock is to be creative with what you have in stock, rather than picking a recipe and collecting the ingredients.”
In the Instock Restaurant they serve three course dinners and brunch. During the Sunday Brunch they also have live music! The Instock Toko opened February 20th. It’s basically a take away where tasty and healthy hot meals prepared by their chefs are offered every day. Fun fact: at the Toko they also have a little library where you can trade one of your own books for a new one.
These kind of initiatives make me so happy. Because if we want to change the world we have to start with small steps. And I think this concept is the perfect way to make people aware of food waste and hopefully it’s a first step in changing the perspective on food, expiration dates and the consuming society. I try to make my own small steps: I always pick items in the supermarket with wrappings which have some flaws – preventing that no one will buy it and it will be thrown away eventually. Besides that I try really hard to never throw away food. Which I try to achieve by cooking exactly the right amount, with much much help from my brand new kitchen scale. And non-food related: buying vintage stuff. For example at the IJhallen in Amsterdam (see our previous blog ‘Holland’s hidden treasures’). And last but not least, I did my fair share of dumpster diving. There is this big open container in front of our student flat which always surrounded by a lot of furniture and other stuff. My little jewel is an old fashioned suitcase which I literally picked out of the container. Just in time since it started raining five minutes later.