The idea of dumpster diving for food may seem like a shocking extreme, but you may change your mind when confronted with the fact that close to half of the food produced in the world also goes to waste -- along with the water that was used to grow it. In an endeavour to raise awareness about this major problem, 25-year-old Baptiste Dubanchet from Tours, France, is going on a 3,000 kilometre (1864 mile) bike journey from Paris to Warsaw, Poland -- fed only by perfectly good food that has been thrown away by supermarkets and bakeries, or given to him by kind strangers.
Dubanchet, an environmentalist with a degree in sustainable development, was inspired to go on this quest by a recent trip to South America, South East Asia, and Tahiti, where the endemic poverty there moved him to further rethink his own habits. He says:
I was rich in poor countries, I was sad these people were so poor. These people have no choice, they did not choose to be poor, so I decided to do something to show how much good food we waste.
Dubanchet ultimately realized that
Less is more. If we produced less, food would become more precious to us.
Dubanchet's project, which he is calling Le Faim du Monde ("the hunger of the world") comes at just the right time, as the European Parliament designated this year as the European Year against Food Waste. Since starting his ride on April 15, Dubanchet has biked through Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Germany, travelling about 60 kilometres (37 miles) per day, and finding accommodations through the hospitality exchange and social networking website Couchsurfing.org.
Dubanchet isn't fussy about what kind of food he can find, eating only what is available. Along the way, Dubanchet has encountered different local attitudes and corporate policies towards giving discarded food; sometimes he finds that companies are strict about not giving away wasted food, as it may affect their bottom line, while other times, people risk their jobs to secretly give him food. Dubanchet estimates that one out of ten places will give away food, with Berlin, Germany being one of the best places for dumpster diving. But the most difficult place he has found thus far was the town of Pilsen, in the Czech Republic, where he was turned away 50 times before finally being able to eat:
The Czech Republic was the hardest, people just didn’t understand the concept. They associate taking trash with homeless people. Finally, I was given a lot of leftover bread from a bakery which I made last for five days.
Along the way, Dubanchet has made it a point to stop in schools to educate youngsters on how food waste perpetuates social inequality and negatively affects the environment and their future:
I tell them how much non-renewable resources are consumed every day and that one day, these will run out. We import so much food, for example rice, that it puts the prices up in the poor countries and then we just end up throwing so much of it away.
Dubanchet's journey no doubt will touch many of the people who come in contact with him and his mission; his unconventional actions and these images of affluence stand in painful contrast in a world of great inequality and ever-present hunger -- where, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, 842 million people worldwide are malnourished, and 25,000 die daily from starvation. Even in developed countries like the United States, one in seven families experiences food insecurity. With these facts, Dubanchet's actions demonstrate how can we rethink our own habits, and act in the face of questionable business practices such as destroying edible food to keep the poor from eating it. More over at Le Faim du Monde.