Passionate About the Community
and the Moms Who Live Here

Why Our Family Eats Out of the Dumpster

My kids love fruit. Cantaloupe, peaches, grapes, apples, bananas, honey dew, blueberries, raspberries – you name it they love it. I love that my kids have a large variety of healthy foods that they will excitedly eat. What I don’t love is when we go to the grocery store and my kid cheerfully asks to get strawberries and I have to tell her no – they are too expensive this week. Organic? Hahaha. Not happening.

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Nothing like fresh fruit on a hot summer day!

We just left the grocery store with two bags of grapes that were on sale – total cost: $10. I can guarantee those bags will be gone by tomorrow. You know what else I can guarantee will happen tomorrow? That same store will have thrown away dozens of those same bags of grapes.

We recently had activist Rob Greenfield stay with us on his Food For All Tour. Even though I have followed him for awhile it was still mind blowing to see it all go down in real life, in our small town. And by “it all go down” I mean it all goes down to the landfill. The amount of food we throw away is INSANE. Dumpsters full of food. All that fruit I mentioned before? The dumpsters were stacked with cantaloupes, berries, bags of grapes- more food than we could fit in our minivan. And you know what? We took as much of it as we could fit home. We washed it, then we filled our fridge and freezer like it has never been filled before. We gave bags of food to several friends. We left food at a gas station and passed some onto homeless people we saw around town. My family of five ate better and healthier than we ever have. And for the first time ever our kitchen saw organic food.

But we STILL wound up throwing much of it back in the dumpster because there was simply too much food to keep up with. Its’s worth noting that while there was no shortage of healthy food – there was just as much processed and packaged junk food in the dumpsters. This is an especially painful irony when you consider over 48 million Americans live in food insecure households and 21,000 people die every day across the globe from hunger. Every. Single. Day. A substantial portion of which are children. It’s depressing enough without even touching on the environmental implications that result from the production and transportation of this food that is going directly to our landfills.

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Visit with Rob Greenfield and Cheryl Davies. Cheese puffs pictured are one of about 20 bags found in the dumpster.

 

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Our fridge and freezer. All food pictured was rescued from dumpsters. This is only a small fraction of food that was found in one day.

A few months back I asked an employee at a popular grocery store if we could buy some of the produce he was pulling off the shelves. He said he would have to ask a manager. The manager then told me he had to throw it away so they don’t get sued like he claimed they had in the past. Turns out there is not one case of a grocery store being sued for donating food – ever. Outside their dumpster was swarmed with the largest vultures I have ever seen. When I wrote to the stores headquarters they assured me they donate the food. Yet time and time again I have found fully packaged ripe food in their dumpster. I have found this to be true of multiple food establishments in town that have donation plans in place. Some stores donate some of their food to pig farmers – which is a start – but many of those pigs wind up right back in the dumpster in the form of bacon and hot dogs.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love shopping in a beautiful, air-conditioned grocery store that is bursting at the seems with shiny produce. But this model is literally killing us. We live in a society where families are living off of processed sugars and carbohydrates because we can’t afford produce – gifting ourselves with diabetes and a laundry list of other health conditions. Meanwhile, stores are throwing away about 40% of the food we produce. And what happens when people try to donate and/or live off of the food that isn’t pretty enough for the grocery store? The stores lock up their dumpsters. We went to a dumpster this week to find boxes on boxes on boxes of ripe organic produce- enough to feed our whole neighborhood. It appeared an employee had poured bleach over the food to ensure that no one could eat it.

This has to change. We have to change. We’re not talking about vacations here – we’re talking food – an undeniable necessity to survive. The Good Samaritan Food Act was passed and not only protects stores from being sued if they donate food in good faith, but it incentives them. Yet here we are in 2016 still throwing away $165 billion of food every year.

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Rob Greenfield travels the US bringing awareness to food waste. Here is some of the food he has found in dumpsters.

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Rob Greenfield travels the US bringing awareness to food waste. Here is some of the food he has found in dumpsters.

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Rob Greenfield travels the US bringing awareness to food waste. Here is some of the food he has found in dumpsters.

 

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19 Responses to Why Our Family Eats Out of the Dumpster

  1. Ruby July 18, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    Great article! Fortunately, in Tampa Bay there are several organizations that collect food from grocers, restaurants (cooked food is not allowed by Public Heath rules). I know this personally because I have volunteered in the Metropolitan Ministries Food pantry (and other organizations who are recipients of perishable food) and have placed dozens of barrels of baked goods from Publix on the shelves (rotating expire dates as I go). Also, Starbucks is now committed to giving away their perishable food. Tampa Bay harvest and Feeding Tampa Bay also collect donated food. There are food pantries at several churches (at least 5 that I know of just in south Tampa) that also collect food that we be dumped. Even so, I was blown away by the amount of food that eventually ended up in the dumpster!

    • Megan Soto
      Megan Soto July 19, 2016 at 9:02 am #

      I remember going to Tampa every week to feed the homeless and we always had an abundant amount of food and people show up to eat it. I didn’t really ever give much thought to where the food was coming from or food waste in general. I’m glad to see stores are still donating in Tampa and hope they continue to improve!

  2. Hair Salon Fan July 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Oh my wow. First thought was Gross, but there is nothing wrong with the food collected. Nothing a little water can’t rinse off. This will be an interesting article to discuss with the clients at our hair salon in Jacksonville. I hadn’t thought of dumpster diving just yet, but as a new small business owner…. things are tight for most of us. That is one of the reasons we reward our clients with points for positive behaviors, like setting appointments ahead of time, referring friends, buying Kerastase hair care, and getting conditioning treatments. It is possible for someone who receives base color retouches every 5 weeks to earn over 11,000 points back to help pay for kids cuts, hubby cuts, or to treat them selves. 11,000 points can be worth as much as $330.

  3. Nancy July 19, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    I disagree. Are you looking for recalled food and produce??? How dare you feed your children this food. You and other informed adults fine. But children no way. There could be listeria and other very dangerous bacteria in there that washing will not fix. Secondly is the birds. If there are droppings from birds or other animals the list of disease potential escalates.
    Find a store that sells reduced for quick sale products or second hand /discount grocers near you. That food is at least safe.

    • Megan Soto
      Megan Soto July 19, 2016 at 9:01 am #

      The point of the blog is to bring awareness to the insane amount of food we waste. I use my family to illustrate some layers of the issue but am not encouraging everyone go run out and eat out of dumpsters. I am hoping it inspired people to come up with solutions that prevent the food from ending up in the dumpsters in the first place.

      • Carolyn July 19, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

        Yeah, I think she missed the point there. I bet you most of that food is NOT from recalls!

        Also, that first picture of the reclaimed food is in Lancaster City! That’s where I live! Where did they go?? With all the grocery outlets in our area, I never expected they would have so much dumpster food!

  4. Melissa July 19, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    I saw a documentary on this a few years ago. My husband and I were pumped to go dumpster diving, to feed our family of seven. From produce to frozen foods, meats and dented packages, we were prepared to fill our trunks full! And then we discovered that grocery stores near us lock dumpsters or damage the foods in a way that aren’t salvageable. 🙁
    I really wish the food waste in America would stop! Too many of us are working hard for little pay, and have lots of little mouths to feed.

    • Megan Soto
      Megan Soto July 19, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      This happens far too often and is absolutely sickening to see. We need to be getting this food to people in need while it’s still good not ruining it while it’s still perfectly edible.

  5. Leslie July 19, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

    Thank you for blogging on this terrible waste.
    Incredible and yet as Americans, many have gotten too lazy to cook, or don’t know how. So it’s fast food, processed food, or no food. Some kids grow up with nothing available to them at home. They literally go house to house, eating over every night to get fed. The food that comes into our home gets eaten, I plan meals and we eat leftovers. I’m going to watch carefully, but I believe no wasted food goes out. Stores should be able to donate extra food and it is a corporate write-off to charity. A lot of time and energy is involved to do this well. We’ve gotten spoiled and marketers keep making more varied options, so more is wasted. There is too much food in our local stores for people to eat it all. I’m not sure what the solution is, but it’s got to better than 1000’s starving daily and dying, while wasted food is plowed into piles.

    • Megan Soto
      Megan Soto July 20, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

      absolutely to everything you said!

  6. Donna July 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    You should check out Country Clubs and other type restaurants too! I can’t believe how much waste I saw with homeless shelters just blocks away when I was in Hospitality.

    • Megan Soto
      Megan Soto July 20, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

      The amount of food wasted on every level is truly heartbreaking.

  7. Ashley July 25, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

    Oh. My. Gosh. My mind is BLOWN right now. I never knew this was happening. I’m sharing this right now and seeing if I know anyone who wants to go look in the dumpsters with me. Holy cow.

  8. Rebecca July 29, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    I feel so ignorant for failing to consider this. Wow, I live with such a “cush” mindset. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  9. Nichole August 1, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

    There’s an incredible organization in Indianapolis called Second Helpings that collects excess food and repurposes it for shelters and other social programs. In addition, they train disadvantaged people for careers in the food industry. It’s an amazing model I wish were replicated everywhere!

  10. Douglas Greene August 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

    google the term freegan. here is just one article about them.

    http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/freegans-dumpster-diving-zm0z12sozlin.aspx

  11. Camille Russell October 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    I can’t believe you are feeding your children unwrapped food out of the dumpster. You have no idea why this food was thrown away. This is irresponsible of you and to promote this “movement” by allowing your children to eat it, it’s just terrible of you.

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