Veggie Hunt

I was invited to join a discussion group organised by the Foodscape Collective.

They connect people who are passionate about food and want to rethink the ways we eat and live. The current focus is on food waste, and they invited me to take them on a veggie hunt for discarded vegetables.

It was an overnight adventure spanning two locations. The first was Little India Buffalo Street and Dunlop Street.

If you've never visited these two places before, you really ought to. It's quite a cultural experience and it puts the India into Little India.

Every evening, roadside stalls spring up selling all sorts of fresh vegetables. Their main customers are migrant workers especially from the Indian sub-continent.

At the end of every day, unsold produce are thrown away in the dumpsters. Many of them are in good condition if not for the fact that they have been crushed by the sheer weight of veggies discarded. This is especially pronounced on weekends when the crowds are larger and the stalls pre-order more stock, which creates greater surplus.

Here are the photos from what we each took home, and we each took home about as much as we could carry.

There are no duplicates in this series of photos.

The second location was Toa Payoh wholesale market. This is one step up the food chain. This is where vegetable sellers buy their stock from wholesalers who drive their lorries down from Malaysia.

Being one step up the food chain, the food discarded is in better condition compared to the Little India site.

Here, the customers are vegetable sellers and restaurant owners. You can see these owners drive up in their cars to where the wholesalers have set aside their pre-orders. They help to load the purchases into the car boot.

Again this is quite an experience. You can rarely buy a single vegetable as these are sold per box or kilogram.

At the end of the night, we watched the wholesalers sort out the ones that can still be sold and the ones that cannot. Those that cannot be sold are dumped into large rattan baskets.

The last hour of the night market is where all the gatherers start to appear. We watched one elderly lady fill her entire shopping trolley with vegetables.

It is just like going marketing. You stoop over the baskets and pick out the ones that you want. You put them into your shopping trolley and walk off. No need to pay because these are all destined for the incinerator anyway.

Then you wait for the first bus to take you home.


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