Nearly a year ago, I was rummaging through a dumpster at a grocery store near Alewife when I met Maximus Thaler, a local dumpster diver. Soon afterward, Maximus became relatively internet famous for his plan to open a freegan cafe that would serve only food that they pulled out of dumpsters. He raised the modest startup costs on Kickstarter and attracted significant media attention for what he was going to call the Gleaners’ Kitchen.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. They got evicted before officially opening, and never regained their footing. I ended up writing a story about it for Boston Magazine, which came out today. It’s a sad story, but there are broader themes that I think are important: accountability and expectations in the age of viral media and crowdfunding, how to effectively fight food waste, the importance of a real-world community to accompany internet ambitions.
Late this past Saturday night, my partner and I went back to the same dumpster, the first time I’d been dumpster diving in many months. Maybe I was looking for a tidy moral to the story. We found a loaf of bread, some bags of tortillas, a carton of eggs, a half dozen artichokes, blueberries and raspberries, oranges and limes, a bag of avocados, boxes of mushrooms, a single huge onion and an absurd number of potatoes. Spreading it out on the kitchen table at 2am, it was easy to see why Maximus wanted to bring dumpster diving to a wider audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually finds a way to do so.
Maximus recently appeared on a WGBH story about reclaiming food waste: