Fusion TV’s latest documentary series, Food Exposed, runs the gamut of unfortunate topics that have become all too familiar. Host Nelufar Hedayat brings viewers all over the world to find out what exactly is failing our food systems: how much is wasted, how livestock are treated, how fish populations are depleting and more. The show ventures to locales like Guatemala, where “perfect” produce is picked for export and the “undesirables” are left for local markets. In New York City, freegans can live off the fresh offerings thrown out by restaurants every day.
The eight-part series also taps the talent of celebrities who are doing their own part in changing the food systems, including Nicole Richie, Jordana Brewster, Moby, Dominic Monaghan and others.
We asked Hedayat about her experience making Food Exposed, whether any of her habits have changed as a result of filming and how she really feels about freegans. For the uninitiated, freegans are semi-anarchistic urbanites (vegan and omnivore alike) who make a point about waste and widespread hunger by eating only food that’s been discarded.
Catch Food Exposed on Fusion TV on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
How did you get into this project?
About five years ago I was vegan-curious and was doing a lot of research about where my food was coming from. When I found out about how big the industrial food complex was, how powerful the lobby within it and how little of the truth getting out, I wanted to know more.
Tell me about the freegans you met for the first episode of Food Exposed. What surprised you the most about them?
This was a really shocking moment for me not just for the film but as a person. To see the amount of waste, the quality of the things being thrown away—organic, fresh, handmade—and the sheer quantity—we could choose not to take the 50 still-warm bagels from one store in favor of a more bougie one down the road—was maddening. I found myself exasperated as the freegan tour leaders were taking orders from the crowd and heading to stores and restaurants where they knew food would be plentiful. It was like seeing the world for the first time, and it was ugly. One of the tour leaders, David, explained to me that this is part of the capitalist system, that the food thrown out is built into a consumerist way of life. That really shook me. I just don’t think we’re told the truth and when we know, I have seen how transformative it can be.
Did you have any preconceived notions about freeganism before the Trash Tour?
Yes. I thought they were dirty, poor people with a vendetta against the Western way of life. They turned out to be none of those things. In fact they are compassionate, very enlightened folk who see clearly the mask we all put on so effectively. Freegans want to take themselves out of an uneven equation where the earth, the vulnerable and the voiceless are brought in from the capitalist cold. They want a society made fair and a food system that values the resources used to make the food we throw away. I completely see their point.
What was the most shocking thing you learned in making Food Exposed?
I think that the most shocking was how little I knew. I went into this with a slight air of Ms. Know it All but my god was I shocked and surprise throughout. From the fish we like to eat being on the verge of being wiped out to my one-sided understanding of GMOs, I learned so much through the people living on the front line of these issues. I’m not at all ashamed to say I was sometimes wrong and when I saw and experienced something new and true, I changed with fact.
What do you want viewers to get out of the show?
I don’t really want to advocate for anything. I think what I’ve tried to do is carve a space for some hard truths to come out and some politicians, regulators and corporations to have to face some accountability for what they are doing in our name. What I do want to change is the one-sided narrative that the corporations Food Industrial Complex presents us. They want us to buy as much as we can. They encourage us to eat more than we need to or enjoy and tell us not to worry about where our food comes from. My aim with Food Exposed was a selfish one in that truly I was finding these things out for myself. If my audience enjoy the docs and learn something to well that’s a bonus!
Do you think this genre of environmental/food documentary (i.e. Food Exposed, Food Inc., Rotten, What the Health?) has impacted any change in communities for the better?
Yes, I really do. It feels like we seem to be hurtling towards something. You mentioned the docs above but for me the environment and Earth is just as important as an animal’s life. I would include Before the Storm and Cowspiracy within this new genre/space. As much as we are taking from the earth, the extent to which we are abusing it and the demands we put on the animals, and people growing our food—it’s simply unsustainable. We only get one Earth and it feels like we just don’t give a shit or at least, we have been taught not to. These new docs feel part of a conscious awakening as more and more people start asking questions rather than taking what we’ve always been told as gospel.
Have you changed any of your eating or cooking habits since filming?
I’m close to zero food waste and whenever I [don’t succeed] I feel the pang of guilt for not succeeding. I’ve learned that bottled water is not the scourge of the world and that GMOs are not at all evil for the reasons I thought they were. I’ve changed a lot for having made Food Exposed.