In December 2017, I started my first bread rescue from a bakery near where I used to live. You might have seen some of my bread art before. I never expected that I would inspire a bunch of amazing people in the freegan community to start rescuing bread from their neighbourhoods as well.
Fast forward to today, there are now food distribution points all over the island, where freegan communities gather to share and consume food rescued from a variety of sources.
This is important because SG Food Rescue was born from freegan activities. It’s good to remember that food rescue goes beyond giving food to charity. We should not be giving to the needy food that we ourselves would not eat, but instead food that we ourselves consume but simply have too much of.
So back to communities. Almost always, a food distribution point starts when someone dumpster dives bread from a bakery and struggles to give away hundreds of buns. Daily. Thus consumption service is required.
We build communities by giving away free food, but we are transparent. We always tell our communities where the food comes from. The proof is in the pudding. I’m not the only person who happily consumes food taken from bins. Hundreds of people now do too, and all without getting sick.
A few months later, I started to wonder, just how much bread is being rescued by the freegan communities on a daily basis? What if we could get all the bread rescuers to pool together their haul? What would it look like?
There was only one way to find out. So tonight on 30 Jun 2018, I organised The Great Bread Hunt.
Over the past 2-3 weeks, I had been inviting active bread rescuers I knew to join us in this Great Bread Hunt. Most important was that we needed drivers, because of the sheer volume of food to be collected, and the number of places to visit.
I gathered 4 teams of bread rescuers, each with a car, and we went all out to our usual bakeries. A 5th driver joined us at the last minute. Each team hauled bread for two hours at a total of 10+ of our favourite bakeries, and then gathered at one point to pour them all out.
There was soooo much bread that we decided to make a message: FEED PEOPLE NOT BINS.
It’s important to note that 100% of these breads would have been incinerated tomorrow if we did not rescue them tonight. And yet, this is just a fraction of how much goes to waste every day.
It’s not that we haven’t tried asking bakeries to give us their bread instead of throwing it away. But not a single bakery has agreed to give us bread. Every single one we have spoken to would rather throw away the bread than give it away.
However, I do want to make a mention here that the biggest bread chains, such as Delifrance, BreadTalk, Four Leaves, have some of their outlets donating bread daily to food charities such as Food From The Heart and Food Bank.
But the smaller neighbourhood bakery chains, with each bakery throwing away at least 100 buns every day (we counted), these do not give away their bread, not even to charity. They prefer to feed the bins.
This is what food waste looks like.
And all these breads are perfectly edible. How do we know? We’ve been eating them for months without problems.
Well, if we keep this up, then perhaps we will fall sick with diabetes, because it’s not healthy to eat this kind of bread every day. That’s why we go for artisanal bread these days. Y’know those loaves of artisanal breads that you pay $8 for? Yeah, we get those too. By the car load.
These are just some of the bread heroes who were able to join us tonight. There are many more bread heroes out there who go out nightly to rescue bread and redistribute them to people who can eat them, but unfortunately were not able to join us tonight.
And there are hundreds more bakeries throwing away thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of buns and loaves every single day.
Think about that the next time you pay $1.50 for a bun or $4.00 for a cake, or $8.50 for that artisanal bread. You’re not just paying for the bread, but also for the waste that you don’t normally get to see.
And now that you have seen it, what are you going to do about it?