Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Dang Freegans, eatin’ our trash, stealin’ our women

January 1, 2007

image from the website and used entirely without permission
See what I mean? Used entirely with permission

Actually, Freegans don’t so much steal our women as eat our trash. And, not so much our trash, but perfectly edible food and produce that shops and restaurants end up throwing away because the products have passed their sell-by dates.

As of today, I’ve become a vegetarian again for a year, mostly for ecological reasons, but also to more thoroughly dive into local and seasonal cuisine vegetal. While rooting around online, researching potentially fashionable forms of food fetishism, I re-stumbled upon the Freegans.

In the end, lactoccasional-ovo vegetarianism emerged as an appropriate form for one who so smugly orders hindu vegetarian food on carbon-not-so-neutral airplanes. Please Gawd, don’t make me learn through my ass this time as much as I had to last time.

image from the website and used entirely without permission
A Freegan hits the freakin’ motherload: a vein of relatively fresh and normally expensive Odwalla juices found in a dumpster, image from the Freegan website used entirely with permission

from the website, used entirely without permission
Oy vey is mir, the irony! Trashed canvas shopping bags emblazoned with interspecies French-kissing from the Freegan website used entirely with permission

From the horse’s mouth: Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.

And they’re no slouches when it comes to Freegan photography, either.

image from the website and used entirely without permission
Freegans tend to forage in groups and come prepared for food transport and sharing. This image illustrates the difference between a group of urban Freegans and the homeless and/or deprived. Freeganism is a lifestyle choice. Image used entirely with permission

image from the website and used entirely without permission
Image from used entirely with permission

Freegans, urban food waste experts

The term ‘freegan’ is a portmanteau combining the words ‘free’ and ‘vegan’, one who chooses not to eat or use animal products in any form. Freeganism is a lifestyle based upon the notion that although animals may not have been exploited in the production process of a product, human exploitation and destruction of the environment were most likely part and parcel of bringing that product into being.

In order to avoid contributing to the processes of exploitation, freegans choose not to participate in exchanges within capitalist economy. Freegans don’t buy things. But that doesn’t mean they are homeless, go hungry, go naked or stop using computers and bicycles. In fact, freegans are experts at ‘living off the fat of the land’, and in a typical North American or European city, there’s a lot of ‘fat’ to go around.

Go to any outdoor market at closing time. You will find crates of perfectly wholesome food that no one will let you buy. Each day enormous amounts of perfectly edible food is thrown away before it leaves the supermarket. Food that has passed its ‘sell by’ date, or it is deemed overripe, simply because too much of it was bought in the first place, is all thrown away. Remember, 40% of all food produced is wasted before it even has a chance to get to our lips.

Freegans are high quality urban food waste experts, and they use their knowledge to feed and clothe themselves. They are highly aware of trash pickup times, baking schedules, and they are quite often informed by shop workers happy to see that the unsold food does not go to waste. One can compare a freegan to a computer ‘hacker’, pointing out the weaknesses of the (food) system.

debra at 2:39 | | post to


  1. Have you read The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved? It’s a review of all sorts of food movements, including dumpster- diving and roadkill-retrieving (and raw-foodists and the lacto-fermentation obsessed and the eat local movement and all sorts of others). It’s a lot of fun.

    Comment by pyewacket — January 2, 2007 @ 22:18

  2. Thanks Pyewacket, I’m going to check it out right now.

    Comment by debra — January 2, 2007 @ 22:34

  3. There are some pretty awful/depressing stories of how supermarkets and Cinnabon lock their tossed treasures up after closing, due to “liability” or maybe just evil-ness.

    Comment by Joanna Swan — February 27, 2011 @ 6:35

  4. Terrible stuff. And this will change in the future as resources become increasingly scarce.

    Comment by Debra — February 27, 2011 @ 10:23

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