Dumpster Dinners

Sean Stapleton       15/03/2017       Dumpster Divers

By Sean Stapleton

Two Auckland dumpster divers are on a mission to save edible food from landfills as they redistribute to the needy.

Every week, the two women who wish to remain unnamed, head out in the early hours of the morning to supermarkets across central Auckland. They unashamedly dive deep into the outdoor skips as they search for fresh and edible food.

The pair are both professional academics at Auckland University and have years of experience with dumpster diving. Although they are advocates and want to spread awareness of the activity, they fear repercussions from their jobs if they went public.

This is a new operation as they have only been diving in Auckland for a month now.

Despite this, they already face an issue of surplus in what they recover and are currently in the process of expanding their distribution network.

“We get really frustrated,” the pair said. “We know people need this food but we don’t know how to get it to them.”

In the last week, they connected with Rescare Homes Trust, a lifestyle community for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Aatir Zadi, a supervisor at the Manukau Community was thankful for their support.

“The quality of food was amazing and we would love to request some more in future.

We loved the selection of breads and veggies.”

Hygiene may seem like danger when recovering food from dumpsters, but these women have a series of systems and checks to ensure the food is edible.

Discretion is key during the recovery process, and a second check of all food is performed once they return home to their flat. Vacuum packed products are submerged in water to check for leaks in packaging, while fruit and vegetables get soaked and cleaned.

The food they retrieve is stored at their flat in two fridge and freezer unit as well as a 250-liter chest freezer. Most is cooked, canned or preserved before storage as soon as possible to prevent the food from becoming inedible.

Though these women operate in an unofficial capacity, there are official charities that work with supermarkets to save wasted food. Fair Food is one such group, which works with chain stores such as Countdown and Farro Fresh.

Countdown and Farro Fresh are however, stores that these women frequently dive at. Which suggests even with official redistribution, there is still more than necessary going to waste.

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Doughnuts: Next on the Swarbrick agenda

Friday Oct 21, 2016

Ex-mayoral candidate and self made entrepreneur Chlöe Swarbrick is opening a doughnut cafe and art gallery.

Swarbrick and partner Alex Bartley Catt have been working with associate  Bryan Anderson on the renovation and development  of the space they have coined Olly. The cafe is due to open in about a month, and will be located inside suburban cinema The Crystal Palace.

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Outside Olly – Photo/Sean Stapleton

The idea for a doughnut cafe was concieved out of Swarbrick and Catt’s passion for the pastries, and disappointment in the lack of a doughnut scene in Auckland. “No one really does the sort of doughnuts that people want here,” claims Swarbrick.

Olly will have a range of doughnuts that will include both yeast and cake based recipes with a focus on the traditional circular shape. The aim is to create a brand that draws on both the American ideals and Melbourne doughnut trends.

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The Crystal Palace – Photo/Sean Stapleton

Though Swarbrick concedes that “doughnuts aren’t extremely healthy”,  they will be using high quality and natural ingredients.

The trio acquired the space following a change in management of the suburban cinema.

Swarbrick would walk past the empty store front daily and had designs on it for a while, as she has a infatuation with project spaces. Her initial plans for the space were solely for an art gallery.

Art has always been a great love of Swarbrick’s and she has been involved in a number of artistic projects over the last three years. She even founded The Goods last year, a “united front for local artists, photographers, and rag traders”.

Through that front Swarbrick set up a space similar to her current project, in St Kevin’s arcade last December. There they hosted a week long retail space with a revolving gallery.

“I love talented artists. It kind of hurts me when I see people not feeling confident in their passions”

Swarbrick aims to give artists a leg up to share their talent with a broader audience, potentially sell their works and gain more faith in their talent.

With this mentality towards the arts, the trio behind Olly have brought in artists from their networks to contribute to a mural covering the back wall of their cafe. Bryson Naik, Toni Gill and Jed Richardson are the collaborators on the art piece (pictured below).

Back at it

A post shared by Chlöe Swarbrick (@chloe.swarbrick) on

The art displayed in the gallery will be on a monthly rotation with gallery openings to accompany the arrival of the new exhibitions.

The space is intended to be a permanent fixture, so locals can expect a bright future with plenty  of fresh art in the village.

Some may be concerned by how far the space is from the centre of Mt Eden Village, however Swarbrick has no qualms. “Passerbys have been showing a lot of interest and we have a wide network,” she claims.

The sentiment is shared by nearby cafes, Oaeill Liang, a local cafe worker says “Some people think that we are very far away from the centre of the village, but a lot of people like that.” He believes that if businesses on the edge of the village work together they can increase their customer traffic.

The trio’s venture is a sign of what becomes of modern tertiary students as they enter the work force. A social media poll conducted shows that it’s a widely held view that after graduation students are likely to end up with diverse careers that stray from their qualification title.

 

Swarbrick is a prime example of this modern trend, as she graduated from Auckland University with a Law degree, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in philosophy. Qualifications that seem odd considering her work history.

As a young woman involved in multiple projects and working a number of jobs, Chlöe Swarbrick holds a personal philosophy that fuels her drive. “Life is Suffering,” she says, a buddhist moral, and idea that she believes pushes her to make life meaningful.

–  Sean Stapleton

Persistence

It is all well and good to have a fantastic idea for a story, but when the key subject is unreachable, you will be left out in the cold. Despite emailing Chlöe through her official public email last Thursday, I heard nothing till yesterday. During that time I made efforts to establish contact through four different methods.

Using wealth of information available online about Swarbrick from various interviews and profiles surrounding her campaign for mayor of Auckland and a variety of artistic and marketing projects she has developed I can cobble together a fairly comprehensive profile of who she is. There is very little information out there however on her current doughnut project.

Thankfully Swarbrick came back to me yesterday and we arranged to meet at The Crystal Palace today for an interview. So with my background research complete I set about preparing my questions.

 

In accordance with my interview with Swarbrick this morning, I visited a few nearby cafes for their comments on their thoughts on competition opening up nearby and what business was like on the outer edge of the Mount Eden Village.

Finding the Sweet Spot

Unsurprisingly, burglary stories are a dime a dozen, especially amongst the students taking this paper. In a fast paced news cycle where articles are competing for mass appeal, it pays to stand apart from the crowd. With this in mind I hit the streets and scoured social media and local forums for a more original scoop.

As it turns out, I have found my new story in the very first place I looked when I began my hunt. At the top of my road sits the suburban cinema, The Crystal Palace. Once derelict and left empty and unused by its owners, it is now host to a number of concerts since new management took over.

Under this new management, the store space adjacent to the cinema entrance and part of the building is under development by none other than ex-mayoral-candidate Chlöe Swarbrick.

I found this after reading through a recent Reddit AMA Swarbrick took part in following the results of the Auckland City Council election.

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To confirm this information and establish initial contact, I tweeted Swarbrick, as she is known for her social media engagement. I received a reply within the day and have set about to contact her through more formal methods in the hope of securing an interview.