Gallic Gleaners Going Strong

February 11, 2009 at 9:59 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

fruitGleaners have been quietly foraging in France for centuries. They’re the subject of Jean-François Millet’s famous 1857 painting The Gleaners (seen on the left-hand side of the montage above). And they’re the subject of Agnes Varda’s 2001 documentary The Gleaners and I. What are French gleaners up to lately? The Observers visits a few, with pictures showing them gathering discarded produce in trash bins and on the ground where farmers’ markets have been. One gleaner from Aix-en-Provence explains that he lives on 90 euros a month: “I started looking through bins because I was hard-up. … Now it’s become a way of life. I pick up everything. … I go gleaning at the market when I wake up in the morning. With what we get we make a soup. And on the market we don’t get any bother from the stall owners. … Homeless people never scavenge. They watch us from the bench, drinking their beers. … But between ourselves, we chat and swap products. We help each other. If someone finds a crate full of cauliflowers, he’ll hand them out to others.”

A new report issued by the Centre d’Etude et de Recherche sur la Philanthropie lists many forms of modern French scavenging and reveals that it’s remarkably common and practiced by people in all walks of life. Among other goals, the report’s authors hope that supermarkets will change their policies and improve access to their unsold merchandise.

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