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From dumpster to dinner plate

Urban foragers feed off of Canadian’s food waste

The amount of food that Canadians waste is alarming.  These high-rates of waste have lead to a new trend: dumpster diving.

It sounds disgusting. But then again, so do the facts on food waste in Canada.

According to the Value Chain Management Centre, Canada wastes approximately $27 billion worth of food every year due to factors such as overproduction, excessive transportation, and inappropriate processing.

The biggest culprit of this food-wasting crisis? People.

Individuals waste approximately $14.6 billion worth of food every year.

Much of this waste is un-intentional, people purchase too much food with the intention of use, but have poor follow through.

It isn’t just individuals, though.  Retailers, restaurants, and hotels contribute to 19 per cent of the overall waste according to the study done by the Management Centre.

Much of it is trash-worthy, but some of it is in perfect ready-to-eat condition, deemed garbage only by stringent health laws. 

This makes dumpsters ideal places for people to scavenge for their next meal.

Kevin Finch is part of the community of “freegans” vegans who eat for free, salvaging creativity from what people have thrown away.

“I find it a great cash-free alternative to saving money on my groceries and other household items.”

Finch said if you have the right equipment and find good locations, you can uncover hidden treasures among the mounds of rotting food, flies, and god knows what else.

“I always bring a flashlight because I tend to do most diving after places close so that there is less traffic,” said Finch.

“The most important thing to bring is a rubber glove because you never know what may be in there.

“The question I’m asked most often is whether or not diving is sanitary.

My answer is that as long as you have the right gear, know what your looking for, and don’t dig too deep in the dumpster, you won’t catch a disease.”

If you look around, you’ll notice that mostly every restaurant and food retailer’s dumpsters are locked because of dumpster diving, scavenging, and animals.

Finch said in Calgary’s downtown and S.E. quadrant, stores seem to be less lenient on keeping their dumpsters under lock and key, making them ideal places to dive.

But watch out. Without permission from the business owner, you could face up to a $100 fine if caught.

The number of people who dumpster dive, or have tried it out, is growing. There are now several groups and clubs in Calgary and all over Canada.

Brittany Rhodes has been an employee at McDonalds for four years. Rhodes said they throw away anywhere between $50-$200 worth of food per day.

“I’m appalled by the amount of food we throw away.

“We throw away the most between the switch from breakfast to lunch,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said they throw away perfectly good sandwiches, wraps, meat, and vegetables every day.

“We have our two dumpsters in a room that is locked, because we don’t want people getting into them and making a mess.”

Rhodes said she always feels guilty when perfectly good food is thrown out.

“If people dove into our dumpsters, they would have a field day. I mean, who doesn’t want a free Big Mac?”

If anyone ever wants to save money on groceries without using coupons or scrounging for sales, you now have this other option.

Just try not to be too quick to judge a taboo hobby because as the saying goes, you won’t know if you like it until you try it.

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