Urban Gleaning - The New Dumpster Diving?

by: Heather on 04/01/2009
Posted in: Food

The other night on CBC radio I heard a report on Parisians picking through the discarded food from markets in order to feed their families. According to the report, these people are known as "urban gleaners". This Reuter's story on the trend states that the phrase urban gleaning comes from the term "glanage", which refers to a French tradition that reaches back to the Middle Ages when people would go over the fields after the harvest and gather any crops that remained.

While analysts view this (quite correctly) as a disturbing indicator of France's deepening recession and failing social safety net, if we change our perspective, then I see there being value in urban gleaning as well. Like North America's Freegan movement, urban gleaning has tremendous potential to prevent edible food and other items from ending up in landfills. Several months ago I blogged about some horrific food waste figures, including a story that Britons are wasting £10 billion worth of food a year.

The most popular blog entry I've ever posted was Hungry Planet - Food Expenditures from Around the World which illustrated (rather shockingly) an average family's weekly food expenditure in various cultures. It appears that as the economic crisis deepens some of this inequity may be on the way to correcting itself.

Please tell us what you think. What does the growth of "urban gleaning" mean to you? Do you think there's a chance that the social stigma attached to the act of this type of "gleaning" will fade? How best to change society's perspective on it (or is that even possible)? Your comments are welcomed below.

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