One writer discovers the joys of free food, and explains why Waitrose are dickheads
It’s half eight on a cold Sunday night in February. I’ve got a torch, gloves, and a massive backpack ready to be filled. With me is my brother Dom, an expert in our chosen pastime for the evening. And no, things haven’t got so desperate at Planet Ivy that I’ve turned to a life of crime. I am far too civilised for that; we’re off to go skipping.
We all know humans waste a lot of food. A hell of a lot. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers recently claimed that 30-50% of food intended for human consumption never makes it to our plates. We cut and slash our way through food resources like a butcher in a Romanian stable – and although some of us probably feel a little bit guilty about it, a lot of us would like to think it’s someone else’s problem.
Luckily, skipping (or ‘dumpster diving’ as Americans call it) is making sure at least some of this food finds a good home. Up and down the country people are scouring the bins behind supermarkets and newsagents to find abandoned produce. People do it for a variety of reasons; some to cut down on food bills, whilst others do it to fight what they see as needless waste. For some it is even a social occasion, a chance to meet up with friends and like-minded people, and go on a sort of urban treasure hunt.
After all, food doesn’t instantly rot the moment it’s out of date (unless it’s marmite, in which case it’s poisonous before you’ve even opened the jar). Best before dates on packaging essentially exist as a form of reputation protection for food companies and are simply advisory notices, not serious health warnings. Once a food product crosses an arbitrary date or quality rating it’s disposed of, meaning most of the time completely safe food is just thrown away. According to CBS Atlanta, food such as cereal or canned goods can last weeks or even months past the expiration date, provided the packaging is not compromised.
Image: Incase via Flickr