Maximus Thaler doesn’t eat like your average university student – or like almost anyone else in the Greater Boston area for that matter.
But the ambitious 22-year-old “freegan” is hoping to win hearts and tastebuds this summer with the launch of a new café that serves meals with ingredients sourced entirely from dumpsters.
The Gleaners Kitchen is described on its website as “an underground restaurant and grocery store” with no price tags – only fresh, healthy meals cooked from “food that others thought was garbage.”
In a Kickstarter video made to raise funds for the restaurant, Thaler explains that much of what supermarkets discard as past-its-prime is completely edible – and often wasted.
“The National Resources Defense Council estimates that every night, the average grocery store throws away $2,300 worth of food,” says the Tufts University student as a camera pans over a large bounty of fresh-looking food beside him.
Thaler and his friends already scour local dumpsters for boxes of fruit, vegetables, yogurt, eggs, sealed coffee grinds and other edible goods to make meals from.
"The things we find, are jaw dropping," he says in the video, noting that one night’s haul can easily be worth thousands of dollars.
If all goes as planned, the philosophy of science major will be running a 24/7 café out of his Somerville, Mass apartment within months.
According to the now fully-funded Kickstarter project’s description, meals will be served daily at 6 p.m. but “there will always be coffee and tea and warm lentil soup.”
“We will use this space not only to host dinners and community events, but also as a base kitchen for food distribution,” he wrote. “Orders will be placed by text message and food will be delivered via bike truck at any time of day to residents of the Cambridge area.”
While some online are criticizing the business as unsustainable, Thaler is quick to specify that The Gleaner Café is not intended to be a business at all.
“This is not a place of commerce, where you pay something to get something,” reads his website. “Our aim is not to produce commodities but to foster community. We contribute to the community by providing food and space.”
Diners are simply asked to show their gratitude for the meals they receive by bringing something to the kitchen that they feel is equivalent to the value of what was received – be that a service, gift or monetary donation.
For those who might be resistant to the idea of dumpster dining, Thaler’s website boasts a sample menu and photo gallery online to showcase what he’s already been able to cook up from dumpster hauls.
Would try “dumpster dining” if you had the chance?