Today I was handing out free bananas with a group of people dressed like bananas. We are part of a group called Waste Not Want Not, saving food from landfills. Saving peoples smiles from being forgotten.
The song Banana Phone was blasting, it was magical. Most people smiled, most people hugged us back, people love free things, people deserve free food.
One man came up at the very end, after we had already handed out 650 pounds of rescued bananas (in one hour). We had none left, he looked disappointed.
Then I remembered the one I had stashed in the pocket of my rainbow sweater. I handed it to him. He said “no thanks, that banana has been through A LOT.” Sure, it was a little bruised, but bruises make it more delicious. I am who I am because of what I have been through. I am proud of my darkspots. Character is brilliance.
Haven’t we all been through A LOT? Could you imagine being disregarded because you had a few bruises? I found a second banana on the ground that was “too green” therefore not good enough to keep, even for free. Someone didn’t have the patience to wait for the ripening.
Can you imagine giving up on someone for not being ripe enough? Not being educated or old enough for consideration. I say give everyone and every banana a second look, don’t just throw nourishment in the dumpster.
We all have bruises, scars, scabs, things that ooze and smell funny, bits of ourself that we might want to hide away, but can’t because they are the fiber of our humanity. We are all broken. We are all bruised bananas, so sweet and ready for hungry bites. All the bread of revolution, with nuts.
Even if it is mushy, it is perfect, it is lovable. The darker the skin the sweeter the fruit, never forget that.
We live in a time where it is easy to lose track of the goodness and color. A vast diversity of humanity exists in a world where crushing greed and extraordinary evil are mainstream.
We live in a time where racism is prevalent and children starve in the streets, we live in a world where dumpsters are filled with flowers and fresh oranges, and we need to remember the art. We need to contemplate beauty as much as we absorb the daily hate crimes and oppression from all angles.
We need to pause the anger so we can hug random strangers in the street. We must pet dogs with fingerless gloves and smile back at little children. We must say hello to our neighbors and engage the community with open arms.
How can you participate in activism? Be active! The first step to making a change is to just go for it! Feed people, tell them you love them, make their day happy on purpose.
Everyone is beautiful and deserves flowers! Flowers have magic powers. People always grabbed them to share with others too, spreading smiles that would have just been rotting in a dump otherwise.
After major Hallmark holidays stores throw out garbage bags and buckets full of beautiful bouquets of flowers. Waste Not Want Not and Food Not Bombs are two Freegan groups that I am involved with that go into the dumpsters and salvage things like produce and flowers from landfills.
This is our second time handing out free flowers. I wrote a similar blog last year and was inspired to do so again because it is important, check out Dumpster Diving for Sustainability.
I haven’t gone dumpster diving in a while. Well, I am more of a spectator because I feel like if I climbed in I would not be able to get out. I should get a step stool. A head lamp and work gloves are also important. Bring boxes and garbage bags for the haul.
Look for food that is in sealed packaging or fruits and veggies with a tough outer skin that can be washed. Most smaller grocery stores do not have compactors, so if they leave their dumpsters unlocked you are good to go.
It is incredible what people are going through. A little bit of joy can change the world.
The other day we had a burlesque show and a man who was in the military, suffering from PTSD and suicidal thoughts, came to it and told us that he felt better after seeing our show! The comedy and light we put out into the night saved someone’s life. He is going to come back every Tuesday.
It is so important to remember that not everyone is as privileged as you are, not everyone has a place to live or a family that loves them. Some people live in the shadow of atrocity. They are forced to wallow in the splinters and shards of broken glass. Lift them up by sharing in the bounty, help the world be a better place, and always remember to love each other!
After we shared flowers my friend stopped at a restaurant to pick up leftover rice and beans and at a coffee shop for some bread, then dropped it off at Friends of the Night People, where they serve the homeless daily. He also saved literally 800 pounds of plantain bananas today as well, and we gleamed some persimmons.
I learned a lot about urban foraging the other day. It feels good to connect things that would have been wasted to people that need them to survive. I don’t know what I would do without my Food Not Bombs salvaged produced, it feeds me for the whole week.
The Salvage Supper Club hosts dinners in “clean decked out dumpsters”. The group of activists have thrown dumpster parties in Brooklyn, Berkely and San Franciso.
I love the idea of a fancy sit down meal made of saved food right in the dumpster to promote better waste consciousness. People need to be engaged and excited about waste prevention. Landfills are terrible for the environment. Many people are rescuing food from restaurants and grocery stores across the world.
With friends, I am currently working on a Food Not Bombs mural in the basement of the Hostel Buffalo Niagara where I work. It is fun to represent the community in this piece, I will post photos when it is complete.
Although it is monumentally important to create political art and art that sheds light on terrible things, sometimes it is refreshing to see something whimsical and fun just for the sake of being lovely. Art that is childish and kind, art that makes people smile.
Currently there is an artist installing work based on his twin four year old sons. They are incredible! 15 feet tall, sort of pixilated Rockum Sockum robots meet Lego versions of “Larger Than Life” children. It reminds us of innocence and feeling like you can accomplish anything.
Kids are born with that sense of giant wonder, they are color blind, they are confident. They must continue to be nurtured by adults who remember what it’s like to be a child.
I have seen at least 10 people walk by the window and smile, never forget how to smile. Let the sunshine into your heat and always remember to love each other fully and proudly, out in the open.
Love is free! Spread the seeds so they can grow into flowers and bloom rainbows of positivity.
Panelists Léo K. McKenna, Josh Davidson and Jerry Gabriel discuss upcoming Canadian Federal Election and dumpster food served as gourmet meals at the UN and what that means for food waste in Canada. Plus an interview with Jake Smith from Montreal band Lakes of Canada, the Community Calendar and Predictions.
It’s taken decades for dumpster diving to nudge from the fringes to the mainstream. Hell, ten years ago, it wasn’t even the explicit goal of the practice.
When it was mentioned in the media, dumpster diving has always been something of a caricature: a bit part in stories of folk on society’s edge: the homeless, the penniless student, or the militant environmentalist.
Well, like local chicken and artisan popcorn, dumpster diving might have been bound to hit hipsterdom–or even possibly policy debates–once it got the prescient Portlandia’s treatment.
Pardon the pun: when it comes to vegetable-burdened garbage vehicles, 2014-15 has been the tipping point
The delegates, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, munched on Landfill Salad, which, to quote the menu, consisted of:
Next up, “BURGER & FRIES,” elegantly described in the roped menu: “off-grade vegetables, repurposed bread…cucumber scraps…”
The food was no doubt fascinating and faultlessly executed; witness:
“cocoa husk custard” dessert created with parts of cocoa beans usually discarded when making chocolate
Though food waste has long been a global crisis, its recent win seems due to piggybacking on something much more glamorous: climate change. Now that the two are finally seen as utterly inseparable issues, world leaders and mainstream media have a safe bet trumpeting the cause.
To what end?
It’s hard to know if it’s too late, or if such events are anything more than fun food writer fodder. Certainly scholars and academics seemed markedly split. Some saw it as gimmicky or simply elitist, while others welcomed the PR for its far-flung benefits.
However we should be wary that it remains to be seen what really happens from this stunt.
European leaders, for example, who dined on Barber’s dumpster bites were likely unphased: they’ve been part of the swift sweep of the food waste over their political and industrial landscape—from the supermarket waste ban in EU debates to corporate responsibility measures in many of its largest supermarket chains.
Here in Canada, it’s much less obvious what effect—if any—such food waste celebrity status will have.
For someone small-minded like me, my mind goes to dumpsterized celebrity chef speculation. Who would be our nominee to stage similar recycled meals for Canadian leaders?
Perhpas Chuck Hughes digging through empty wine bottles in an Old Montréal alley, spinning out some renewed mullusk-shell bisque laced with dregs of private imports from his bacs de recyclage. Or a blazer-clad Mark McEwan scrubbing still-crisp carrots from the bins of his high-end Toronto store, repurposing them in day-old baguettes from his in-house bakery, all with a skeptical scowl.
Of course, none of this would happen here. If anything, we can hope for more events like Metro Vancouver’s mass free lunch of “rescued” food. In true low-key Canadian fashion, the 5000 people this event fed got one tenth the press ink of Chef Barber’s 20 precious plates.
Downplaying splashiness, however, goes hand in hand with Canada’s habit of downplaying food security altogether, to the point that we’re embarrassingly lagging behind other industrialized countries. Lest you jump to CPC-blaming, know that it’s far from just a diplomatic problem. It’s just as seriously a societal and cultural one. Old illusions of boundless natural resources and agricultural surpluses remain firm, not to mention the fact that most Canadians are urban-concentrated, downplaying rural and remote food crises: “out of sight, out of mind.”
Food Secure Canada, the leading umbrella group of scholars, advocates and policy coordinators when it comes to food issues, have been trying to hammer the severity of the issues for years.
With elections looming, it’s even more striking that the UN & Dan Barber style mega-attention on food waste remains mostly lacking here. Campaigns such as Eat, Think Vote, an initiative meant to bring citizens and their riding candidates together for a meal to discuss Canadian food issues, have helped nudge the issue forward, evidenced by some discussion at this Monday’s debate.
Oh, supermarkets, what are we going to do with you?
It seems you’re embroiled in a certain love-hate relationship with many of us.
Think of those farmers: they stock many of your vast shelves, yet often remain resentful for being squeezed. Or the upwardly-mobile, who slag you off in public, all while filling your coffers. Even food waste activists, perhaps your most virulent critics, have also been known to sing your praises.
However you slice it, dear supermarkets, it seems we just can’t take our eyes off of you.
Here in Canada, for example, you recently roused our spirits by bringing ugly fruit to your shelves, all while appropriating it as a new, cost-saving “brand” promising to quell food waste.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, you waded into the edible insect trade, only to pull them from the shelves two days later without telling us why.
In Alberta, you convinced the Blood Tribe of your merits, who hope to leverage your model on their land.
Yet this nagging question remains: do you really help us gain access to food? Or do you just stand in the way—-you big, boxy bully?
Over in the Bronx, a recent high-profile study seems to suggest the latter.
The NYU report investigated the effects of a 17 000 square foot Associated Foods supermarket in a known food desert, Morrisania, a neighbourhood with high rates of: “heart disease, obesity, diabetes…depression, infant mortality, mental illness and HIV…”
Its $1.1M 2010 opening costs were incentivized to the tune of $449 000 (about 40%).
However, the team reported no “significant changes in household food availability” to neighbourhood children, with an equal dearth of improved “dietary intake.” Don’t dismiss this as a one-off, supermarkets: the study’s vast sample size (about 2000 children) and lengthy duration (before, during and after the opening) suggest that even your government-fuelled spinoffsmight fail to offer tangible benefit to those most in need.
Another recent article goes even further, claiming that you might be causing some of these problems to begin with.
In “Supermarkets are the problem,” Deborah A. Cohen at Slow Food USA surveys research on impulse purchases at the cash register alongside nefarious-sounding “slotting contracts” in your end-of-aisle displays. In a decisive verdict, she holds you structurally accountable for obesity and chronic disease.
Now listen up, supermarkets, because what I’m going to say might surprise you. I think we should cut you some slack.
First, determinist conclusions like the latter should be taken with a grain of your finest No Name salt.
It’s not only deceptive to pluck out and blame you from within a living, breathing, increasingly-complex wider food picture, it’s dangerous. By over-emphasizing government regulation as an ultimate cure, it effectively disempowers us everyday eaters of the education, choice, and agency we already possess—the type of things we really should be encouraged to strengthen.
If for no other reason than you’re not going anywhere soon, we’ve no doubt got a lot to negotiate.
Practically speaking, we all find ourselves in your aisles from time to time. Sometimes we’ve driven a long distance to greet you. Other times, we’ve just met you halfway.
Other times, for many of use, we just get squeezed for options and feel almost forced to wander your aisles. Yet rather than praying to be saved or averting our gaze, it would be better to simply open our eyes.
Back in January, I speculated that Canada’s world-leading habit of food waste might soon become too embarrassing to ignore. Following the (real) experts, I pointed towards supermarket waste reform in particular as a key to stemming this horrid tide.
It seems that last week, one food giant stepped up to the plate.
So, in what is perhaps a first for Canadian corporations, a supermarket giant acknowledged that un-cosmetic produce was actually fit for human consumption.
Sure, it’s a damn small victory. And despite the welcome news, Canada is a latecomer to the ugly fruit game as far as supermarkets go. UK chains began the practice in 2012, while France’s Intermarché giant scored a hit with their Inglorious vegetables campaign last year.
What’s more, if you’re reading Forget the Box, you probably get your fruit from farmer’s markets, “Good Food” boxes, overpriced épiceries, dépanneurs, or hell, any other store than a supermarket. So, you’ll probably be quick to chastise Loblaws that this particular brand of “responsibility” is about ten years too late.
Still, could it help our society, in some tiny way?
Let’s look at what we do know.
The Loblaws produce will come packaged under the label “Naturally Imperfect,” and will stand alongside its picture-perfect cousins, boasting near-equivalent taste. The brand will apply only to apples and potatoes at first, though others are said to be on the way.
Those deeply-discounted apples in the saran wrap (think pink 50% off sticker), will not be affected due to this change.
Rather, couched in packaging that hearkens back to their popular, 90s-era “Green” and “No Name” brands, the cut-rate, yellow-bagged produce will stand as its own brand, buffered by similar rhetoric that brought the latter to fame.
“If you were to grow produce in your backyard,” says Loblaws senior Director Dan Branson in the Financial Post, “there’s a lot that would grow that wouldn’t look as pretty as what you would see in a grocery store.”
He goes on, reminding us that even “Mother Nature doesn’t grow everything perfectly.”
You can almost feel the spirit of Arlene Zimmerman rising from this golden marketing-speak.
I imagine her leaping from her Dragon’s Den armchair, blemished McIntosh in hand, telling a would-be entrepeneur, “I’m in. Knotted, ugly vegetables are 100% on-trend.”
So while “Naturally Imperfect” promise a return to the mass market for tonnes of neglected apples and potatoes, it is also a new “product” in its own right.
The homely castaways seem expertly engineered to cash in on a portion of the market that—for some insane reason—other chains have been afraid to tap.