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Tufts 'dumpster diver' looks to open cafe to serve discarded food

Posted by Jarret Bencks  March 26, 2013 11:29 AM

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A Tufts University student that searches dumpsters behind grocery stores and makes meals with what he finds wants to make his future Somerville apartment into a 24-hour cafe and serve the food for free.

Maximus Thaler is the founder of The Gleaners' Kitchen, which prepares meals a most nights a week at the Craft House, a cooperative living house on the Tufts campus. Thaler has launched a Kickstarter in the hopes of raising $1,500 to open the "cafe" in an apartment he's moving into this summer, which would host events like academic lectures, crafts workshops, and poetry, Thaler says in a video accompanying the Kickstarter. And, of course, there would be a daily meal made from the items discarded by grocery stores.

Thaler said he isn't interested in making a profit.

"I'm not starting a business, it's going to be my home," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I'm going to be cooking food and inviting people to come into my home."

The Gleaners' Kitchen name comes from Ruth, a character in the Old testament who gather bits of grain left behind in fields for her family to use.

"In today's modern, industrial, capitalist society, gleaning takes on a new meaning," Thaler says in the video. "Some of us call it dumpster diving."

The video shows Thaler and others rifling through a grocery store dumpster in the night, finding a box full of fruit and vegetables, a carton of 11 eggs, yogurt and sealed coffee grinds.

"The things we find, are jaw dropping," Thaler says.

Anything unusable is discarded, while edible items are cleaned and prepared to be served. Thaler said he's never gotten sick from any of the food he has prepared.

"There is certainly food in the dumpster that isn't edible, but when I get home I really thoroughly inspect everything," he said.

Thaler said his mission is to get people to start thinking about food differently.

"Food is not a commodity, it's not this thing where you pay something to get something, it's to share and build a community around," he said. "And that's what I'm trying to do, build a community."

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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