Way back when I started Bike & Build about a year ago a man by the name of Rob Greenfield randomly added me on Facebook. Around the same time I was starting my journey Rob was on his. Much like myself, he was biking across the country for a good cause. Rob was creating a documentary to show the amount of waste that America produces. To show this he decided to bike across the country surviving solely on food he found out of the dumpster and showering only in streams, rainfall, or leaky facets.
This summer Rob was once again back at biking around the country. He had a stop in Austin, TX to meet up with the people who started The Food is Free Project.
The Food is Free Project is essentially a project to promote communities to plant vegetable gardens in their front yards. This way communities can pull together and get whatever fresh food they need right in their front yard.
In celebration of Rob coming through Austin, The Food is Free Project decided to put on a guerrilla gardening event. I learned about the event through Facebook. I pulled up google maps to find the house we were meeting up at and to my surprise it was less than a mile away.
When I arrived at the house I came to a group of people standing around a giant bucket of dirt making seed bombs. Seed bombs are balls of compact dirt with several different kinds of seeds in them so when you throw them onto a random grassy area there is a greater chance of at least one seed sprouting and creating some type of vegetable.
After turning the giant bucket of dirt into a giant bucket of seed bombs we set out to vegitate the city. Not only were we all strapped with seed bombs but several of us had sunflower seedlings strapped to the back of our bikes to plant along the streets of some less attractive parts of town.
There were 18 of us rolling through the streets embracing Austin with the love of veggies and flowers. I felt like I was on Bike & Build again the way we would take over whatever street we were on.
I found it amazing just how quickly we could blow through an area planting flowers. About 5 or 6 people would come through with small garden shovels digging holes and the rest of us would come in behind them planting sunflower seedlings. Within a matter of minutes we would turn a ugly dirt area into a soon to be sunflower garden.
After a few hours of guerrilla gardening we all set out to a local market for some fresh food. We sat around an outdoor table and Rob told us stories of life on the road. He explained how ridiculous it is that Americans waste so much food each day. After all he did manage to make it across the entire country by only eating out of dumpsters.
After dinner we set out to head back to the Food is Free house. On the way, rob pulled into a random parking lot of a grocery store. I thought maybe he was having bicycle issues like a flat tire or something. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“There’s a dumpster here.” He replied.
I knew exactly where this was going next: dumpster diving. He held the dumpster open while someone else climbed in and began rummaging through the expired goods of the local grocery store.
At first I was a bit disgusted to watch these men retrieve items from the trash. I couldn’t believe why anyone would want to eat from a dumpster. But, before long, once I realized what they were pulling out I was pleasantly surprised. I soon realized just how easy it was for Rob to live completely off of dumpster diving. All the food was completely fine. Sure, some were a day or two past the expiration date but everyone knows the food is still good. Hell, some food wasn’t even expired yet!
The dumpster was pretty much empty but they did manage to retrieve a few boxes of yogurt (which were still cold), noodles, and lasagna. We strapped the boxes of goods to our bikes and headed back to the house.
Once we got back we opened all the boxes and laid out all of our findings. I was amazed at how much perfectly good food this store was threw away. Curiosity led us to totaling up the retail prices of all of our newly found products. And these products were expensive. The majority of them were organic which we all know dramatically increases the prices. After totaling everything up it came to $227.67!!!
The crazy part is that this was only from ONE DUMPSTER!!! Just one many dumpsters around the city filled with perfectly good food. Perfectly good food that could easily be used to feed all of the homeless in the city and still have some left over. But instead we would all rather waste it away just because the company that manufactured the food says it’s gone “bad.” Therefore, forcing us to buy more food and throw away the food that we think has gone bad.
The truth is that the FDA doesn’t closely regulate expiration dates and most are devised by the company determining when the food will start to have a minor decrease in quality. But, for the most part, food is still safe to eat up to weeks after the expired date. So, next time you are about to throw away a box of food simply because the label says so be sure to give it the sniff test. It is smells fine and tastes fine then it’s fine to eat.