My Story about Food Waste Shame

"Imagine you eat crappy bread from Maxisconto for breakfast, longing for a fresh slice of sourdough bread with a soft, heavy and warm center, a crispy crust making a sound that fills your ears with every bite. And four hours later, after a tiring morning class, in the Uni’s mensa, you see some of just these slices of your foodie-dream in the used plates rack, untouched, abandoned by their time-limited owners. How can they become waste within half an hour, passing 20 meters from the towel-lined basket to the rack, loosing all their value? „They go to compost“, I get told. Everyone who has gone through the caring hour-long process of raising a sourdough baby might question this as a valid end for the slice (unspoken of the plowing, the months of growing, the harvest, the transport, the milling, the packaging, the selling of the flour).
So I want to take some slices from the rack, take them home, toast them for breakfast tomorrow. But I feel ashamed. Ashamed for my egoism, ashamed of people perceiving this as unhygienic and disgusting, ashamed of seeming „in need“.
So I go and buy my own lunch, my own slice of bread, slowly feel my belly filling up, the tiredness of the „abbiocco“ coming over me, and finally get back to the rack to dispose my empty plates just to realize: A lot less dramatic to see the abandoned bread now, I almost forget to notice it, carry on.
Are our bellies constantly too full to care for the food waste that surrounds us?
When I talk to my grandmother, after years of a relationship marked by superficial formalities, I’ve finally found ways to connect to her. One of them is food waste. When we talk about it our two realities overlap for a moment, for reasons that couldn’t be further apart. She grew up during war, fleeing her home country, hungry, valueing every bite of food she would get amongst the other family members. It’s this experience that makes her get into rage when she sees people loading their plates on a buffet and leaving half of it back untouched. And I share this rage, share it, after living in Germany’s Ecohipster Capital Leipzig, where you meet your friends to cook a vegan dinner from foodshared „wastes“ (www.foodharing.com), bakeries' old bread transformed into „Semmelbrösel" in many shelves, the cake for dessert made of fruit from forgotten trees marked on online maps (www.mundraub.de), stylish coffee shops selling second day baking goods from close-by bakeries. Yes, our backgrounds are different. But we’re in for the same cause.
But how to explain this enriched perception of the slice of bread to most of the people? In an economical system where abundance means low price, low value. In a legal system which has to label tons of comestible food passed though display as unsafe to avoid the responsibility of the exceptional case. In a time (&place) without hunger. And in a time, where I feel I should be ashamed of being in need, where I should be able to independently care for myself.)
So I decide to ignore the awkward feeling and take the slice home. Maybe it’s a little political act of every day life (Warning, ego alert!) or maybe it’s just my craving for this amazing bread"
-by ELISABETH BERLINGHOF