1. "Why is so much food being wasted in this country?" Overproduction. Because the majority of participants in our vast system of food (over)production are focused on their respective profit margins and are thus unwilling to spend the resources that it takes to get their excesses dealt with responsibly, they are generally NOT motivated to address this problem of food waste. Companies are generally unwilling to reduce profit margins by either, on the front end, cutting back their production or, on the back end, handling their excesses responsibly. And neither is our government stepping in/up to address this problem of food waste. The result? Food keeps being overproduced, and the resulting excesses keep NOT being handled responsibly. Thus, the environment and our society continue to suffer. As long as the root problem of overproduction continues, FoodCommune can help mitigate its damaging consequences by getting excess food diverted from landfills to people. FoodCommune rescues food from all sorts of places- grocery stores, farmer’s markets, food pantries, other non-profit organizations, personal donations, restaurants, churches, catered corporate events, schools (e.g. elementary cafeterias, dining halls of local universities)... but the problem all comes from the same source: overproduction at the corporate level.
2. "Freeganism sounds great, but dumpsters are dirty and I don't wanna go into them. What can I do?" If you live in Atlanta, you're in luck! You can be a freegan without EVER dumpster diving. We do all the work for you! You can just show up and get clean fresh food... off of tables! We are now, in 2023, 9 years since starting FoodCommune, rescuing 95% of our food directly from stores, food pantries, farmer's markets, etc. BEFORE it even goes to the dumpster. We are more "modernized" these days and don't rely on dumpster diving to get our weekly bounty of produce and other items. Over the years, we have built a strong relationship with our donors, and they save the food for us to pick up weekly from their facility instead of dumping it all in the trash. Plus, it doesn't hurt the donor's bottom line when they are getting a substantial tax write-off at the end of the year for donating their unwanted food instead of throwing it away. Working TOGETHER in collaboration is how we are able to facilitate this magnitude of food rescue every week.
3. "Why do I need to donate money in order to get food?" FoodCommune is based in the philosophy and practice of freeganism. We are a freegan food co-op: we rescue food then share it among our participating members. Members themselves also share in the costs of getting the food rescued and distributed: the costs of locating, picking up, unboxing, sorting, preparing, loading, transporting, storing, refrigerating/freezing, displaying, etc. the food. We are a co-op (self-supporting) rather than a charity (externally-funded), thus we pay these costs ourselves rather than have others pay them for us. Current operating costs for FoodCommune total approximately $30,000 annually. All you are paying for to receive food from us as a Saturday shopper is a "shipping and handling" fee, to help cover some of our expenses in getting this food to you. Even this token fee (for receiving food from our tables) is optional if you participate as either a Volunteer or Gleaner.
4. "Expiration dates matter to me. Would I be a good candidate for FoodCommune?" Probably not.
5. "What kind of food can I get? Because food rescue is an inherently unpredictable enterprise, we cannot predict the specific types and quantities of food that we will rescue in any given week and thus have available for you on our tables on the next food distribution day. Given this unpredictability, the key for success here is: All FoodCommune attendees come from NEARBY, with no expectations about food types or food quantities. FoodCommune is designed to be a LOCAL group of LIKE-MINDED (waste-conscious and/or frugal) people. On any given day that you are planning on getting food at FoodCommune, please check our Facebook page before even leaving home for any updates. Typically, you can expect food rescued from grocery stores, farmer's markets, restaurants, bakeries, households (items may be opened), dumpster diving, delivery trucks, and more!
6. "I am financially comfortable, and can afford to pay the exorbitant prices that grocery stores charge. Should I just continue to shop at Kroger, and leave the food at FoodCommune for those who need it more than I do?" NO. First of all, we always have more food than people. So you will NOT be cutting into anybody else's portion. Secondly, a person's own pocketbook is just one reason to practice Freeganism. A zero-waste lifestyle is beneficial to not just one's own budget, but to the environment and to society at large. Even if you have enough money to shop elsewhere, please come get your groceries at FoodCommune instead, for the sake of the bigger picture. And if you do indeed want to help people who are needier than you are, then use the money that you save via FoodCommune to go help them -- see Question 7. With Freeganism, everybody wins!
7. "I am saving thousands of dollars every year on my food bill by getting my food at FoodCommune instead of at grocery stores. What do I do with all this extra money?" Answer: Adopt a dog? Buy a chest freezer? Build a room addition? Pay it forward by buying non-food items for those NEEDIER than you are, e.g. sleeping bags, clothing, toiletries? The possibilities are endless!
8. "Can I bring my kids with me to volunteer?" Yes! No age is too young to be teaching those kids the value of sharing, cooperation, and freeganism.
9. "I want to attend FoodCommune, but I work on Saturdays. What can I do?" Quit your job. 😂
10. "I want food but I do NOT have a way to get to you. Do you deliver?" Not officially... BUT... lots of our food DOES end up getting delivered to the needier members of our city every week, thanks to an army of foot soldiers who faithfully take food FROM FoodCommune out INTO the nooks and crannies of some nearby food deserts. Some of our more talented participants even take the time to cook and/or can, in order to share with others! For example, Doug fills his car every week now with some of our rescued produce, and then spends dozens of hours canning it all for shelters like Hagar's House. Lynn often makes large pots of soup from our rescued food to bring to a group called Lost n Found Youth (LNFY.org). We are so grateful to have people on board like Doug, Lynn, and others -- people committed to SHARING THE BOUNTY.
11. "I have food to donate. Where can I bring it?" Ideally, bring your food donation directly to us during any food distribution day, so that you can then grab some other food for yourself when you drop off. If your food donation is cold/perishable , please bring it between 10:00a-1:00p so that we can distribute it to people that very day. If you are unable to come during a distribution, then you can drop off PANTRY ITEMS on either one of these two covered porches 24/7: 1) 1118 Forrest Blvd. Decatur GA 30030. 2) 466 Waldo Street SE Atlanta 30312. Or we will send a driver to you, to pick up the food donation from you, if you prefer. If you are donating COLD FOOD ITEMS, then call us 404.822.5685 to schedule an appointment for pick-up or delivery, so that we can be sure to get those items straight into the Mooler. Please note we take out-of-date and opened items- one of the few (if only?) organizations in Atlanta that will redistribute these!
12. "Is taking the thrown away food illegal? I'm not in Atlanta but I would love to do this for people where I live!" THERE ARE NO LAWS AGAINST DUMPSTER DIVING. That's correct: In the U.S., there are currently (3/31/2023) no laws on the books prohibiting people from taking stuff out of dumpsters. No federal laws, no state laws, no county laws, no city laws. But, of course, any individual store can prohibit diving in THEIR dumpster by simply placing signage near the dumpster. After all, the store including any of its dumpsters are private property. Stores can make whatever rules they want ... about what you can/cannot do ON THEIR PROPERTY ... assuming that they are not breaking any laws w these rules. Thus, a store can say: -- shirt and shoes required, -- no walking behind the counter, -- no using our employees restroom, -- no parking in our Manager's reserved spot, -- no diving in our dumpster, -- no bringing inside the store any animals that are NOT service animals, -- no flushing sanitary pads down our toilets, etc. But, pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a store CANNOT discriminate on race, religion, gender, etc in their policies ... Thus a store could NOT post a sign "women prohibited from this dumpster, only men allowed." It's worth mentioning that there ARE laws against trespassing, littering, vandalism, and disorderly conduct that can bring criminal penalties during the process of dumpster diving. In summary, if: 1) You see no signs posted prohibiting either trespassing or diving itself, AND if 2) You have received no personal ban/warning from the store (e.g., a Manager informed you that you are not allowed to dive there), AND if 3) You are behaving yourself in the process, e.g., -- NOT strewing trash around outside the dumpster: littering, -- NOT shouting obscenities: disorderly conduct, -- NOT bending/breaking/cutting or otherwise damaging any hardware on or around the dumpster: vandalism, then you have no criminal liability in the act of dumpster diving anywhere in the U.S. I will add: Stores seem to get just as offended at the prospect of you PUTTING STUFF INTO their dumpster as they do at the prospect of you TAKING STUFF OUT OF their dumpster. Lol. But seriously, they do not want "dumping." The sentiment is generally: "Hey, hands off our dumpster!" But I have often made peace just by assuring an employee, "Don't worry, I am NOT dumping anything in here, and I will NOT be making any mess."
13. "How can I support FoodCommune in Atlanta?" There are many ways to participate! We are a co-op, after all, a COMMUNE, not a CHARITY. We need members not just to get food but also do some of the other things that make this organization able to continue, such as: -- VOLUNTEER to facilitate our weekly food distributions. -- NOTICE food being discarded, then call Pam 404.822.5685 so that she can arrange its rescue. -- RESCUE food yourself (get your hands on food that somebody is discarding), then contact us to make arrangements for us to get that rescued food from you: we can come pick up the rescued food from you, or you can bring it to us if you prefer. -- DRIVE your truck/trailer to help with food pick-ups during the week. -- ORGANIZE an "expired food drive" to gather expired food items from your neighborhood or workplace. -- DONATE supplies: recycled bags, recycled containers, takeout food containers, tote bins, bungee cords, a tarp, a gallon of bleach, etc. -- DONATE money, -- CONNECT us to organizations discarding food, -- SEND food-waste/rescue links to us, for us to post on the page. -- BRING NEWBIES to our Saturday food distribution: share with other people in Atlanta this fantastic local opportunity to save money while saving the planet . -- SPREAD THE WORD about FoodCommune and freeganism in general: talk about food overproduction and food waste, tell others about this freegan food co-op, share our Facebook posts, etc. In general, market this program. Word-of-mouth is our most effective tool for growth, so that we can grow to rescue even more food and help even more families. So instead of thinking, "How can I get the most benefit from FoodCommune?" think, "How can I help make FoodCommune not just survive, but grow?" Cashapp $PamTheFreegan, Venmo @PamTheFreegan.
14. "Why don't you donate all that extra food somewhere else instead of composting it or feeding it to animals?" Once any food reaches our hands, our commitment to the donor of this food is to get it directly into the hands of the consumers themselves, not just dump it onto another org that may not have the same zero-waste standard that FoodCommune has. This commitment takes work, but we do it because we are in the business of SALVAGING FOOD not just SHUFFLING FOOD. FoodCommune’s mission is specifically to divert resources from landfills to people, not to just move them from point A to point B, or from person A to person!
15. "Is there any food left over from the last food distrubution day? (Here is an old answer from when we were at Edgewood Church... hopefully this will change with our new space!) No, there is never any food left over from our Saturday distribution. Any food that people do not take on Saturday, we have to dump into the ground (e.g., on the farm next door, or in the woods adjoining public parks) on Saturday night. Sadly, this is because we do not have the resources ... space*, time, money, manpower, etc. ... to deal with any of the food from a given Saturday distribution past that particular Saturday. *SPACE. We have neither the space to store food, nor the space to host people for shopping, past Saturday. Come Sunday: 1) The lovely church space where we hold our distributions needs to be used again for church services and other events throughout the week. 2) The very limited space that we have for food storage needs to be available to begin receiving the next trailerfuls of foods that this very wasteful city (Atlanta) is so continuously and predictably generating.
16. "Who can come get food from FoodCommune? Do I need to bring proof of indigence? Do I need to live in Dekalb county?" Do you need to bring proof of indigence? NO. Do you need to live in Dekalb County? NO. It's easy to qualify to receive this rescued (salvaged) food from us, as we have no RESIDENCY or INCOME requirements. Basically, this food is for anybody who is ever nearby on our food distribution day in Atlanta, Georgia. 1) RESIDENCY: We do NOT have any residency requirement, as you may live a full 2 hours away but be NEARBY 368 Candler Road doing some errand during a food distribution, thus would use little gas/time to get to us that day. Perhaps you even live in California, but are here in Atlanta visiting friends or family a weekend. Please drop by and help REDUCE FOOD WASTE whenever you are in town! 2) INCOME: Certainly, this program is NOT just for people who are struggling financially. Poor people, rich people ... Anybody can help REDUCE FOOD WASTE!
17. "I attended FoodCommune yesterday, and was so excited at the bounty that I ended up taking home more food than my household can use. What do I do with all this food?" Whatever you do, DO NOT WASTE IT! Share with others (neighbors, co-workers, friends, family...) Freeze it. Can it. Dehydrate it. Make smoothies. Explore new recipes. The second best option is to feed it to animals. The last resort is compost. Always keep in mind the Food Recycle Hierarchy: #1 People, #2 Animals, #3 Compost.
18. "I understand asking for people not drive long distances to attend FoodCommune to reduce our carbon footprint, but every week there is food left over and so much good food going to farmers. Isn't the goal to get the fresh edible food to PEOPLE before animals or compost? If you have families that live more a few miles away and they shop for more than one family, or more than one family comes and they carpool together, wouldn't that also reduce the carbon footprint while keeping food out of the landfill?" First of all, we love that you are thinking of ways for families that live further than a few miles away from 368 Candler Road to participate in this freegan-food lifestyle! However, shopping for others is not usually ideal. If you choose foods for someone besides your own household, they may not like your choices, thus either they are not happy eating the food or *gasp* they discard the food because it does not suit them. Carpooling together: If you are coming from far away, then you will want to stock up on food: take many units from our tables on the day that you make the trek to us. Additional passengers in your vehicle means less space for food. On the other hand, COMBINING ERRANDS may be a good option. Example: You live up in Sandy Springs but sometimes come down to Atlanta to visit your aunt. Ok, make that visit happen on the day of our food distribution and then come on over to FoodCommune afterward! Ideally, enough people everywhere get on board with freeganism: People who live close to ys get their food from FoodCommune (so convenient for these geographically-lucky families!) And People who live far from us rescue food in their own respective areas ... ... so that, bottom line, more food ends up getting rescued, i.e. more food ends up getting diverted from landfills to people. Truth is, so much perfectly good food is being discarded everywhere, not just in the vicinity where we (FoodCommune) happen to be doing our rescuing these days. So how good it would be if MORE PEOPLE would be rescuing MORE FOOD all over the place in this country of so much excess and waste. In the meantime, if you live far away from us... 1) as long as this society of ours keeps overproducing food to such a staggering extent, and 2) until YOU have gotten your rubber boots and headlamp to do your own scavenging out there, and 3) until WE have gotten our attendance numbers up enough by getting the word out to more nearby families about the great benefits of switching from retail to rescued ... ... if you want to avail yourself of the food deals that FoodCommune provides, please at least try to be thoughtful, scrappy, and conscientious in your use of gas to get to us!
19. "I'm not in Atlanta. Is there a FoodCommune in my area?" Probably not. As of this writing (July 2023), the only two options for getting food in this country still tend to be either: Option 1: Full-price (retail: grocery stores) (Capitalism) or Option 2: FREE (food banks) (Charity). Yes, CSAs (community-supported agriculture) are a nice alternative to these two extremes. But our model (viz, a FREEGAN-based COOPERATIVE) is even more rare than CSAs, and rather unique. FoodCommune exists in that huge middle ground between Capitalism and Charity, both of which have proven to be highly wasteful. A FREEGAN COOPERATIVE is better than either of these two widely-practiced endpoints of the spectrum because it is zero-waste. You can search for salvage grocery store near you on this site: https://www.buysalvagefood.com/salvage-grocer-map.html
20: "I want to start a FoodCommune in my area. How do I start one?" Get 8 tote bins with lids. 4 large bins: 30-gallon (these take 2 people to carry when they are full) + 4 smaller bins: 18-gallon (these can be carried by just 1 person even when they are full). Print 40 labels on your computer: Recycle Food Waste + your name + your phone number. Affix 5 of these labels to each of your 8 bins using clear packing tape: 1 label on each side, and 1 label on lid. Take 4 of these bins into a restaurant or grocery store close to where you live. Have the FoodCommune Facebook page pulled up on your phone. Ask to speak to a manager. Tell him/her that you are trying to reduce food waste, and show him/her the FoodCommune Facebook page. Ask if you could leave a bin or 2 there, and if they would put food into it instead of into trash can next time they are discarding food. If yes, then you can swap out empty bins for full ones on your first pickup there. If no, then try another restaurant or grocery store. (Be persistent: there ARE business owners out there who care about more than just their own bottom line, and your message will resonate with them.) After you acquire food, then give this food out to people. It's a great time to be doing this work, because: social media! Right at our fingertips (keyboard) are so many ways to get the word out!
21. "Is there a food giveaway this Saturday?" Most likely yes, but always check our Facebook page on Saturday before coming. We never know how much food excess Atlanta will be handing over to us in any given week. Ideally none, if people and organizations are all handling their own food excesses responsibly, i.e. getting their food excess distributed to people themselves, thus no need for FoodCommune to rescue any of their food, thus no need for a FoodCommune distribution to occur that week! We can dream, right?
22. "What is prepaying and how do I do it?" Prepay at any time during the week, Sunday or later, to get your name on the list for the following Saturday. $10 is the minimum to prepay ... but please pay more than enough to cover what you will probably spend at FoodCommune. This forethought and generosity on your part will save you and us the time of doing a second (day-of) transaction. If you end up getting less food than your pre-payment covered, then we can give you the difference in cash when you check out, or better yet, tell us to keep the change! Every donation helps to pay our operating expenses so that we can continue doing this important work of diverting food from landfills to people. Thank you. When making your prepayment, please include a comment to specify the first name and last initial of the person who is shopping. Prepayments are non-transferable and non-refundable; thus, you should submit your prepayment only at that point in the week when you know for sure that you will be able to attend that following Saturday. Prepayments ARE transferable to another person. Line order is determined by time of donation.