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'Freegan' activists dumpster dive to save the planet

Ben Nelms / Reuters

Anna-Rae Douglass (left) and Robin Pickell climb into a dumpster behind an organic grocery store in Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Ben Nelms / Reuters

Anna-Rae Douglass sorts through a dumpster for edible food.

Ben Nelms / Reuters

May Wollf a practicing 'freegan', holds a sandwich that is made entirely out of found or donated food.

Ben Nelms, photojournalist for Reuters writes: I never thought I would say “that’s delicious” after taking a bite out of expired and moderately warm cashew ice-cream. This was one of the many presumptions that would be broken in my time spent with this intriguing group of “urban gleaners.”

A “Freegan” is someone who gathers edible food from the dumpster bins of grocery stores or food stands that would otherwise have been thrown away. This is usually due to being past an expiration date or being damaged. Bread, fruit and vegetables, canned goods and even ice-cream is found and given a second chance.

I first met Robin through another story I was working on at a young women’s shelter in downtown Vancouver. Robin, who works there part-time, mentioned that she had quite different food habits than the normal 23-year-old city girl in Vancouver. I asked if I could photograph her on one of her “grocery shopping” outings and the rest fell together from that moment on.

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Ben Nelms / Reuters

May Wollf (center) and Robin Pickell (right) sort through food they plucked out of a dumpster behind an organic grocery store in Coquitlam, British Columbia on Thursday night.

Ben Nelms / Reuters

Anna-Rae Douglass looks through her fridge of scavenged food at her house.