Food For Thought

Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert’s Dive! Living Off America’s Waste.

But in the past few years, hunger has become much more prevalent in the United States, making food rescue a more urgent problem. “When I first started dumpster diving [in 2007] it was just me and a few friends; we almost never saw anyone else,” begins Seifert. “As I started making the film things changed. With the economic crisis there were more people at the dumpsters.”

“Thirty-five and a half million people in the U.S. are ‘food insecure,’ reckons David Gist, California regional organizer for Bread for the World, a Christian organization that urges decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. In other words, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. “But about 11 million people in the U.S. are actually going hungry,” he advises.

This begs the question: What can individuals do to help address the problems of food waste and hunger. “We can start by reducing the amount of food we pack in our cupboards and refrigerators,” suggests Seifert, noting that while waste happens at all levels of production and consumption—on farms, in transit, in grocery stores and restaurants—a surprisingly large percentage occurs in the home. “Of the total amount of food loss, about 40 percent is in the household. A typical household of four loses about $600 worth of food a year,” states Jones.

Seifert also encourages individuals to volunteer at food banks and halfway houses, and to get involved politically, by reaching out to senators and congressmen and supporting nonprofit organizations that provide food and meals to the poor.

He also has a few words of advice for those who are inspired to dumpster dive, emphasizing that “You have to research your local stores. The bigger supermarkets like Safeway or Vons have massive compacters that don’t have lids, so stores like that are impossible to dumpster dive at.”

Beyond knowing which stores have accessible trash bins, timing is the second-most important factor. “You should go after midnight or 12:30 a.m.,” he contends, “because if you go earlier and employees are still around they get angry and disgusted and usually start locking the dumpster, which ensures total waste.”

Seifert also encourages people to follow Dive!’s “three basic rules for dumpster diving.”

First, “never take more than you need,” a guideline that is surprisingly difficult to adhere to. “When you first start you tend to take way too much,” he claims. “If you jump into a dumpster and there are 80 pre-made salads, it doesn’t feel like much to take five. But five is a lot when they are already near expiration.”

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