I was surprised to read a story in The Guardian this morning about legislation that has been passed in France, making it illegal for supermarkets to dispose of, or purposely spoil, surplus or out of date food. The forced act of goodwill will see supermarkets signing contracts with charities to distribute the otherwise wasted food. I think this is a great idea but a sad indictment of human nature and corporations that it has to be passed as law. The story reminded me of a poem I wrote inspired by Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners, as well as my experiences while working at a Franprix (supermarket chain) in Paris some years ago (maybe another blog post with that story). Finishing my night shift at the supermarket, it wasn’t unusual to see people who didn’t fit the stereotype of needy or homeless rummaging through bins which overflowed with dairy produce that had passed a day or two over their best before warning, bread that had gone crusty, tomatoes that were ripe to the point of almost bursting and bananas that save for the dark brown patches, would have otherwise been edible. Well, I guess even the dark brown patches are edible when you are hungry. Anyway, I was glad to see the story and thought I’d also mention a great documentary I watched some years back on the very topic – The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda (first four minutes below). I loved the interesting characters Varda revealed and the de-stigmatisation of surviving on what most of society deems as trash, while also highlighting the glut of food produced and wasted while so many people go hungry.
First published 23 May 2015.