Foto: Tromsø Folkekjøkken / People's Kitchen Tromsø

Eatable trash food

Did you know you could help yourself and the planet at the same time? Or you can at least start working on it via trashed food. Let’s dive into this!

Text: Anežka Prosecká

Who is not familiar with dumpster diving – should be at least theoretically. The term started to be used as an official term for grabbing food, which was supposed to be forgotten forever in mud and dust. However it belongs to the activity, when the source of the trash food is the supermarket or a grocery store and the food is thrown away for any other than a healthy reason. A Huge “boom” of the dumpster diving started back in 2005 with German documentary Taste the waste.  That picture captures the situation of food waste between market chains. Large amount of fruits and vegetables is thrown away because of its size or shape. Supermarkets get rid of dry food such as pasta, rice or crackers immediately after its expiration date, even though everyone knows, that these foods are able to stay fresh for a even AFTER they have expired officially. Dairy products are considered as trash three days before their expiration date. The solution to such waste is diverse in the different countries. Sometimes you are able to find expired products in a special shelf with a special label and a sale offer. However mostly that is not the case of fruit and vegetables with different shape/size. These are picked up immediately during harvesting or after. These pieces are then left on the field.

Photo: Olga Shavrina
Photo: Olga Shavrina

Of course there is an obvious solution to the waste situation. Giving the food – considered as “bad” – to poor, homeless people or collect all these left overs and sell them separately.

Even though the trash food is not useable for market chains, it is still considered to be their property. And as long as this property is able to cause some health issues, those particular markets are responsible for potential customers.

Coming back to Taste the waste, there started to be groups of people, especially young active students, which have been going through the supermarket dumpsters and taking all the eatable food. With that activity the law came. And in most of the countries the law does not allow or even bans this dumpster diving to public, since the food is still property of the market.

Photo: Olga Shavrina
Photo: Olga Shavrina

Wise people around the west European countries started to search for a legal way out of this wast issue.  How lucky are we to have such a people also in Tromsø.

They are called Tromsø Folkekjøkken– People’s kitchen and the main organisation is made by contemporary artist Liv. She let herself to be inspired by a London initiative, where there exists some official agreement between the organisation and one supermarket and so they are able to provide trash food without being scared of angry customers. The Whole responsibility lies on the back of every person, who takes food from this particular organisation.

Also, how Liv admitted, the supermarket is more willing to make some contract, than to solve dumpster diving. There she came with another reason. People, especially here in Norway, are able to get their money back, when they discover expired product on the regular shelf. Sometimes it could happen, that people came with a product, which they “dumpsterdived” and so betrayed the store.

Photo: Olga Shavrina

The People’s kitchen has an agreement with Coop, and an officially signed document. They receive the expired food every month. After collecting the food, anyone can come to the public event to help with the preparation of hot meals or choosing of still fresh vegetables and be part of wonderful atmosphere. After cleaning the dishes there is also a possibility to take away some leftover food.
For free.

As there is written the event is public. Anyone can join anytime. Usually it takes place in Tromsø Contemporary Art Centre, but occasionally it is moving wherever it suits better. Also the day and time are not settled, counting more for dinner time. This information is shared on their Facebook page a few days before the event.

In the received boxes person could find from potatoes, onions and carrots to bananas, berries or champignons. Mentioned pasta, rice or salt were there too. The spices or oil are not missing and every time there is plenty of bread and sweet bakeries, in delicious second day shape.

Photo: Olga Shavrina
Photo: Olga Shavrina

The propagation of these events is not big at all. People can get to know about it mostly from hearing from friends or via Facebook. Poor or homeless people don’t appear there, because they don’t have many chances to know about it, since the place and time are moving on the last minute.  It could be connected with the fact, that there are not many needed people around Tromsø and these who are have different place for getting free food or supplements.

In the background of wasting there is much more details and complications. Every public meeting, every big mindless shopping to fill the fridge, every vernissage, fast foods and each food show cost life of many unused food. And every waste starts and stops with every done or not done purchase.


Fact box:

Contact: Tromsø Folkekjøkken  – People’s Kitchen Tromsø

Main person: Liv Bangsund

Usual place: Tromsø Contemporary Art Centre, Muségata 2

Time: once a month