Bread is one of the most wasted food items. We throw out almost 750 million loaves each year. All of the food above was rescued from curbside trash outside of a market and bakery in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. (Aliza Eliazarov)
To be a freegan is to be a person who avoids exchanging money for food and other items — you recycle what is still good instead. To accomplish this, however, one has to be creative, maybe even nocturnal.
“After the markets close, the shopkeepers put food on the sidewalk,” explains Aliza Eliazarov, who discovered this world of freeganism while on a newspaper assignment about dumpster diving. “Most of the food doesn’t even make it into the trash because people are there waiting for it.”
Eliazarov, who has a degree in environmental engineering and an interest in conservation and preservation, signed onto listservs for freegans and tried various approaches on how to tell the story photographically. She settled on Dutch Realism after toting a black, velvet cloth with her on a routine evening.
“My goal was not to be yucky but to show the beauty in the food that was about to be trashed,” she said. The 17th century master painters often painted food as art. Eliazarov set to work building sets and buying accessories to stage the food.
Momentum has built around the issues of food waste and locally sourced food. In some cities, restaurants can place good leftover food in public refrigerators for the taking. Whole Foods is selling discounted ugly fruits and vegetables among the beautiful ones. In Seattle if you throw out food, a red tag appears on your trashcan so your neighbors know you did not compost.
“The streets of New York are lined with bagels,” says Eliazarov who has been working on this story for five years. Some of them are now art.
The exhibit, entitled “Waste Not,” is on display at the Fovea Gallery in Beacon, N.Y.
Fresh juice rescued from a dumpster in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was in a bottle with an expiration date too close to place on market shelves. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is trying to pass the Food Date Labeling Act, legislation that could clarify terms such as “use by” or “sell by.” (Aliza Eliazarov) Tomatoes were rescued from curbside trash in front of the Garden of Eden Market at Broadway and 10th Street in New York. (Aliza Eliazarov) Oyster shells from Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere Restaurant are reclaimed by the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to restore one billion live oysters in the New York harbor. These shells can be used in new oyster beds. (Aliza Eliazarov) An imperfect carrot and an imperfect potato — 26 percent of all produce is wasted before it even reaches a shelf because it isn’t beautiful enough. (Aliza Eliazarov) Immature egg yolks from the oviducts of culled layer hens were used by chef Dan Barber over a stew of kale ribs and imperfect potatoes and parsnips during his wastED pop-up restaurant event in New York in March 2015. (Aliza Eliazarov) An organization called Food Forward with the help of volunteer gleaners harvest 1,280 pounds of grapefruit from this one tree, giving it to four hunger relief agencies. (Aliza Eliazarov)
with the help of volunteer gleaner
Chef Dan Barber served codfish rack, in which the bones and meat left over after cod is filleted is used to make smoked sable. (Aliza Eliazarov) Onions donated to City Harvest are redistributed to hungry New Yorkers at the Queensbridge Mobile Market, which provides free produce to nearly 800 residents every two weeks. (Aliza Eliazarov) An edible beef tallow candle served at the Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village in New York is poured over salt and rosemary and served with bread and spent grains as part of a wastED themed-menu in 2015. (Aliza Eliazarov)