Mutato Project — Uli Westphal

German photographer Uli Westphal enjoys finding foods that don’t conform to the standards of our commercial food system. His photographing of fruit, vegetable and root oddities began in 2006 and continues today. We are the beneficiaries. You can see more of Uli’s collection on his site. Best of all, you can buy a fabulous print to support his work.

Dumpster Treasures — Secret Freegan

“Secret Freegan” is a Phoenix resident who recovers food from grocery store dumpsters and donates it to those in need.  Inspired by the 2/28/08 episode of Oprah, Secret Freegan has been recovering food for needy families and various shelters since March of 2008. In that time, she estimates she has donated $45,000 worth of food to the hungry.

After Secret Freegan began peering into grocery dumpsters, she could not believe the huge amount of fresh food tossed. (The supermarkets refuse to donate many of these goods because of unfounded liability fears, though much of it is that day’s fresh food.) What she found exceeded what her family and friends could eat, so she called shelters to see if they were interested in receiving her dumpster-found donations. Many were.

Making several daily trips–to prevent food from rotting in the Arizona heat–Secret Freegan has documented the wasted food with hundreds of photographs and a few videos that you can see at her site, Save The Food. Also, you can follow her on Twitter. The below photos are all items she has recovered from supermarket dumpsters:

photo by secret freegan

photo by secret freegan

photo by secret freegan

photo by secret freegan

photo by secret freegan

Forgotten Food — Pantelis Korovilas

Photographer Pantelis Anastasios Korovilas, 19, hails from Clinton, Iowa and is finishing up a graphic arts program at Clinton Community College. The photos below are part of his ongoing exhibit, Project +. Here, he describes his work:

Through the use of photographs, Project+ is the study of human nature, the increasing amount of food produced and wasted in this country and the unnecessary rise of poverty associated with it.

As the leading contributors to global warming, we add to the problem by dumping an estimated $31 billion worth of food into American landfills. My generation has been born into this “throw-away” society. It has become, for most of us, part of our culture and it is hard to swim against the current or change old habits. We were born with our eyes closed.

My goal is for this to be an ongoing project, to be more than just art, but a cause and a means of reaching out to the public, to my generation. We will someday be the owners of local businesses or part of the 30 million people going hungry in this country. It is time to open our eyes.

For more information, visit his Web site or e-mail: pakorovilas at


  1. Posted November 21, 2007 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi. I’m looking at all the wasted food, but I’m also seeing all the wasted packaging, which to me is an even greater problem. Yes, the food will go to the landfill and create methane gas, which is a bad thing. But the plastic will also go to the landfill and create methane and leach toxic plasticizers and last pretty much forever.

    If we could only get away from all this disposable plastic and other packaging, we would end up with a little food waste that could then be composted and returned to the soil to make more food.

    I’m not saying it’s okay to waste food. But it’s the fact that we’re mixing it with all these other materials that turn it into unrecoverable waste rather than nutrients for the earth.

    What do you think?

  2. Jonathan
    Posted November 21, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Interesting comment, Beth.

    I have no idea how large an impact packaging has on our environment compared to food waste. Do you have any numbers like how much food waste packaging is thrown out each year? I’m guessing the data is not broken down that specifically.

    Until I see how much packaging is out there, it would be hard to say that packaging waste is a greater problem. Then again, I’ve never said that food waste is more or less significant than other problems. I write about the topic partly because know that individuals can have a huge impact on the amount of food waste created.

    I completely agree that disposable packaging is a bad thing. That’s why I try to reuse and/or recycle containers whenever possible and bring my own bags to the grocery store. What are some other ways we can cut down on packaging?

    And I agree in theory that food waste, if composted, could be less harmful than plastic packaging waste. But do you know what percent of food waste is diverted from landfills? A whopping 3 percent, nationwide. Kinda sad.

    Thanks for your insight. I hope you’ll share some more…

  3. Posted March 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Great website!! Keep up the good work!!

  4. Posted March 27, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I am not sure if baby’s comment was directed towards me or you Jon but, thank you if it was.

    You have a nice site too Jon ;)

  5. Janice Garvin
    Posted May 26, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Bravo! and keep up the good work. I do agree about the packaging being a major problem, though.

    Back in the day, when I was a kid (something like 40 years ago) there was a lot less disposable material used for serving food. Restuarants actually had plates, utensils, glasses and napkins which were picked up and washed. Schools served their food on plates or trays which were cleaned after each use. We kids were expected to sort our disposible trash, such as paper napkins and milk cartons into one barrel, drop our silverware into a bucket of sanitizing solution (probably clorine bleach and water) then to push the trays with the food remains on it over to the lunch ladies, who dumped the food into barrels of scraps and ran the trays through a high temperature dishwasher. I don’t think anybody ever got sick from the recycling.

    We kids were eager to get outside and play at lunchtime, so we hustled to sort our own trash, silver and food, and since we did a lot of the work, I doubt it added much time to the payroll. At some point, the labor of cleaning everything began to be more expensive than the cost of constantly replacing everything. At least, that was the common knowledge of the day. Now, few people question it. It absolutely makes me crazy.

  6. Posted March 24, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I like the gallery. Good work!

  7. Posted May 27, 2009 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Secret Freegan’s artwork reminds me a lot of what comes into the warehouse through our food recovery program. I wish, though, that we got more fresh cut flowers in. Those eggs are particularly jarring to me, because we don’t frequently get eggs in. Even though the produce flows like water in the mountains here, eggs, meat and dairy come in episodes, because most supermarkets are too squeamish to kick it down to us.
    Peace and Love,

  8. Posted June 11, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Think of all the fossil fuel that is used to produce and transport all that packaging as well!

  9. Yvonne
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t realize the enormity of food waste and how grocery stores are simply throwing out perfectly good food in the trash! Plastic waste is a big concern to me too. Do you realize there is a large patch of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, called the North Pacific Gyre? Much of the plastic simply gets washed up to ocean shores, end up in rivers and out to the ocean. Marine mammals mistaken them for food, causing hundreds of thousands of marine mammals and birds to die each year from suffocation. Many other fish ingest this plastic – the toxins that are released from the plastic accumulate in their bodies which would find its way into the foods we eat.

    It’s sad that we are polluting the earth in this way. I now avoid ordering take-out as much as possible, avoid using plastic utensils & cups, avoid buying water bottles, and am more cautious of product packaging and try to avoid purchasing plastic-wrapped packaging, which is very hard to do though! I use minimal saran plastic wrap and zip lock bags by using Tupperware or glass bottles for storage. In the event I do use saran plastic wrap and zip lock bags, I rewash and reuse them!

    Your website is great! It’s so informative and I look forward to learning more!

  10. ken carpenter
    Posted January 31, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine at a large on site restaurant service company did a study on styrofoam contatiners vs. plate service. the labor and soap and machine from ecolab is so expensive that it was an cost efficient to buy the styrofoam for meals.

  11. Crystal
    Posted March 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Doesnt most food compost?
    Doesnt food compost help landfills?

    I am heartened to see that Secret Freegan is doing such great work with salvagable food, but I guess im ignorant about the harm that food waste has on the envirnoment, i thought organic decay was a good thing.

    I live in Abbotsford BC. (Canada)
    as for the packaging, i know it isnt widespread yet, but in my city, we have a methane recovery system, where layers of trash are buried with perforated pipes that gather methane, and direct it to an energy generator that contributes to our grid; some of it gets flared to avoid methane release. my neighboring city, Burnaby, BC is building a facility that recovers energy from burning styrofoam. I recognise that these aren’t complete, clean-cut solutions, but they are steps in a good direction…

    I believe leaders want to be responsive. My discussions with leaders tends to make me hopeful…Im going to investigate policies about wasted food here in Abbotsford, and find out if we need ot pay more attention to the issue here, thanks for the eye-opener!

  12. Colton D'Agostino
    Posted January 3, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    If only there was a movement to cut down on eating food all together. The U.S. in a whole is eating way to much food and are not exercising enough. If the bigger companies could make smaller portions and somehow we embed the thought of only eating these small but filling portions we could cut back on food waste and packaging waste at the same time.

    On a side note, I also the what Sun chips is doing with there packaging as well with there
    bio-degratable packaging.

    Jon you are doing something good and we need more people like you to make a difference. If i can do anything to help give me an email im very interested.

  13. Roy Ferguson
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    There have been many comments made over the last 30 odd years of my working career about excessive food packaging and its impact on the environment. The vast majority of the comments are made by well meaning people who have genuine concerns about the pollution of our planet; these concerns are based on emotions, not facts, where in lies the credibility gap. There is no food processor or packager of food who intentionally spends more money on the packaging of food than is necessary. WHY? The food retailers will not pay a premium for over packaged foods. Cutting costs is their major goal, just look at their flyers every Thursday. As for reducing the amount of packaging used to keep our food fresh and protect it during shipping, as well in the consumers fridge: the waste would be even more horrific than the current 50%; and sickness due to food poisoning would become out of control. If anything the way to reduce food waste is to package our food to obtain longer shelf life, maintain the nutrition and cut down on food poisoning. What to do with the packaging? Recycle it! Use it over and over again. Here is an example of how recycling works; in Canada 96.4% of the beer bottles are returned for recycling. In the US, which has 10 times the population of Canada, to my knowledge there are no facility for the recycling beer bottles.

  14. Posted June 8, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I read in Elizabeth Royte’s book, Garbage Land, that 35% of household waste in the U.S. by weight is packaging, and food scraps and yard waste make up another 25%.
    I’m still finding enough food thrown out in grocery store bins to feed every hungry person in Phoenix by my calculations!
    Ginger, “Secret Freegan”

  15. Posted January 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink


  16. Robert Haugland
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Now that there are more and more people raising chickens one thing that they should know is that chickens eat just about anything. The only exception, that I can think of, is citrus peels and celery. The wasted food pictured on this page could all be fed to chickens (especially the eggs, which chickens love!).

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  1. [...] links to everything from Apps for food recovery programs to recipes for unsellable-peach salsa. Bloom’s gallery is particularly worth a visit, if only to glimpse the Mutato Project, a German [...]

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