You’ve heard of a vegan diet. It’s becoming increasingly popular to eschew animal products in favor of a whole food, plant-based diet. Many vegans are concerned about the environmental impact their food choices have, which may play a big part in their decision to be vegan. But, what if that way of living was extended further? Is it possible?
The Environmental Protection Agency states that Americans dump nearly 38 million tons of garbage every day. There’s a group of people who take advantage of that and they call themselves freegans. Freegans support themselves on what others discard, including food. Freegans are not known to live without enough food due to the massive amounts thrown away, especially in the back of restaurants and grocery stores at the end of the day. While it may seem like someone who is a “dumpster diver” is poor or homeless, it’s not usually the case. They are simply people who are concerned with food production and environmental impacts of their life choices. Some freegans even choose to eat food only from trash bins.
A big question a lot of people ask themselves when they hear about the freegan diet is whether it could possibly provide enough nutrition. There must be limits if the food available is sometimes expired, and how much fresh food could possibly be available? A significant amount of freegan food options include highly processed foods that are loaded with calories and fat. What’s lacking are essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Some freegans might find themselves lucky in the way of fresh produce, but it’s basically a matter of consuming the best you can find.
Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD of Food Label Nutrition thinks it’s possible to get what you need from a freegan diet. She acknowledges that people throw out a lot of food and that as a female, for example, you really only need 1,200 calories per day from a variety of foods.
Food borne illnesses are something to be concerned about, as they would be with anyone who follows any diet, in or out of a dumpster. One thing that freegans need to be vigilant about in particular is the amount of time that food has been out. No more than four hours, is the rule. Temperatures between 40F-140F are considered dangerous regarding their vulnerability to bacteria. Foods that are good to keep an eye out for on a freegan diet are protected produce such as oranges or bananas that have rinds and peels and those that can be easily scanned for damage.
As with almost any diet or lifestyle, what’s good for one person is not the best for another. If an individual is savvy enough about nutrition and has resources available to live a freegan lifestyle, it seems as though they would be more than able to receive enough nutrition. Others might find themselves undernourished if their freegan supply is made up of over processed, sugary foods.