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Our apathy with food waste: (DIVE!)

Posted by on Apr. 25, 2013 at 2:42 AM
  • 19 Replies

“Every year in America we throw away 96 billion pounds of food. That’s 263 million pounds a day. Eleven million pounds an hour. Three thousand pounds a second.”


Those staggering statistics open Jeremy Seifert’s recent documentary “DIVE!,” a film featuring a group of individuals, including Seifert himself, who live off the food most would consider trash. 


The film exposes a hidden world of people, commonly referred to as “Dumpster divers,” who nourish their bodies with the enormous volumes of food found in grocery store Dumpsters throughout the country. 


However, a recent NPR interview described Seifert and other self-proclaimed trash-can scavengers not just as individuals in search of their next meal, but as social activists in search of justice and change. 


The film raises serious issues that arise from food waste, namely, its toll on the environment as a result of greenhouse gas production in landfills, the waste of billions of barrels of oil each year used to produce, process, and transport food products that will ultimately end up in the garbage, and the expenditure of thousands of consumer dollars on food that will never be eaten. 


Most importantly, the film examines global hunger and poverty in a world that wastes billions of pounds of food each year.  With 850 million people suffering from hunger every day, Seifert asks why our trash cans are brimming with food.  In response to his own question, Seifert lamented, “there is a problem, the system is broken.” 


In a telephone interview with Food Safety News, Seifert explained that he was first introduced to the concept of Dumpster diving about 4 years ago by friends who arrived at his apartment with bags of gourmet food that had been disposed of in the trash bins behind a local Trader Joe’s market.  Seifert noted that the sell-by dates listed on the food packages were for the following day.  


Intrigued and simultaneously shocked by the idea, Seifert ventured to the Dumpster one evening ad returned home with a supply of produce, meat, eggs, and cheese that would last several days.  All of it having been thrown away the day before its sell-by date.  With this food he was able to feed not only himself, but his pregnant wife and young son, Finn, also featured in the documentary.  ”My son was raised and nurtured on Dumpster food,” Seifert remarked.


The film asked the question: how can one be sure that food retrieved from the Dumpster is safe for consumption? Seifert explained that by relying on his senses, eating safely could be achieved easier than most would think. 


By visually inspecting, touching, and smelling with great care the food he found discarded in grocery store dumpsters and cleaning the items thoroughly, Seifert said he was able to feel confident that it was safe. He explained that the biggest hurdle to overcome was the gross factor. Yet, after a few excursions, he learned to not be afraid of discarded food just because it came from a Dumpster.


This notion of depending on the senses to ascertain the safety of food is not such a foreign concept.  Beginning in the early 1900s, the “poke and sniff” method was implemented as the primary meat-inspection system employed in slaughterhouses around the country. Under the auspices of USDA, inspectors would touch, smell, and prod meat to test its wholesomeness as it moved down the slaughter line.


A major shortfall of the “poke and sniff” method, though, was the inability of the system to detect invisible pathogens and microbes. After the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak, there was a strong public opinion that the “poke and sniff” system was neither stringent nor scientific enough to ensure the safety of the nation’s meat supply. 


Ultimately, USDA adopted a science-based approach to food inspection, known as the HACCP system, in which individual plants designate “critical control points” where pathogens could enter processed meat and monitor them for contamination.


With the exception of cross-contamination, most opportunities for contamination exist during the processing stage of food production and prior to distribution to retail outlets. As a result, Seifert argues that he is not unlike average grocery store shoppers who use their senses when determining whether to purchase a particular food item. Whether food is found on a supermarket shelf or in a Dumpster, Seifert contends that consumers and Dumpster divers alike take the same risk that their food has been contaminated by an invisible pathogen while being processed. 


The film points out also that the dates on food packages are not necessarily an indication of the safety of the product.  In fact, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of USDA has reported that the “sell-by,” “best if used by,” and “use by” dates displayed on the labels of many food items in the grocery store are not safety dates. 


Instead, the date is used primarily to help retail stores determine how long to display the product for sale.  FSIS provides that even after the date on the product label passes, while not of best quality, the product should still be safe for consumption if properly handled. For this reason, Seifert thinks more people should overcome the fear and perhaps indignity of Dumpster food. 


The impetus for the film did not come until after Seifert had made several trips to Uganda while working for a non-profit organization raising awareness about global poverty. On these trips, Seifert witnessed firsthand the effects of hunger and severe malnutrition.  In particular, he noted the stunted growth and swollen bellies of children, often the same age as his own son, living with their families in displaced persons camps and receiving only one meal a day. 


While making the film, Seifert admitted that he did not necessarily intend to become part of the movement to end hunger and raise awareness about food waste.  He recalled certain times during the making of the film when he was, as he put it, “tired of food, tired of Dumpsters, tired of thinking about it, tired of talking about it.” 


Yet, despite his original intentions, after the film was first screened in October 2009 he realized he had become too deeply entrenched in the issues surrounding food waste and hunger to forget about them. 


Now, Seifert has taken further action with the Eat Trash Campaign for Zero Waste, which is part of a growing movement that challenges people to reexamine the role of food in society. In addition, the campaign aims to educate schools, corporations, hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets on how to effectively reduce waste. 


Seifert hopes the film, which has been screened more than 100 times both domestically and internationally, will continue to gain acclaim. After winning awards for Best Documentary at several film festivals around the country, Seifert feels confident that his audience will continue to grow. 


He also hopes his film will cause more grocery store chains to reexamine their policies regarding food donations to local charities and food banks to ensure that food goes to hungry people rather than into Dumpsters.


"Dive!" is on Netflix, and I recommend watching it!!

by on Apr. 25, 2013 at 2:42 AM
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Replies (1-10):
.strawberry.
by Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 2:53 AM

The statistics throughout this whole movie are staggering and disheartening.  Now, I'm not saying we should all start eating trash.  I feel a bit grossed out about eating meat that may potentially be full of bacteria. However, if you watch this documentary you will clearly see that this family is able to survive 100% on foods thrown in the trash BEFORE expiration that are good.  He clearly states that he's never been sick, and as this article mentions he takes a risk much like anyone does when shopping at the grocery store (and if you think you are not taking a risk at your local store you are DEAD WRONG).  I think we should re-evaluate the "safety" of food that is getting wasted.  Much of the stuff he was pulling from the trash, if that happened in my own home I wouldn't have tossed it and I was disgusted that the grocery store was. If it's just going in the dumpster, why not give it to the poor? Our food waste could eliminate hunger in this country.


Sisteract
by Whoopie on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:00 AM

IMO, individuals can take food safety risks for themselves that businesses that serve the public can not. Choosing for oneself to eat expired or likely rotten food is different than another passing serving you rotten food. 

We have been known to push the envelope in our own home but I certainly would not serve  these things to guests...I have also suffered the effects of eating older stuff too.

Blame the legal community for the practices that businesses have in place.

Food borne pathogens can do harm.

krysstizzle
by on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:05 AM
2 moms liked this

Thee sheer amount of food waste makes me sick. 

Farmlady09
by Silver Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:20 AM

I blame the regulatory agencies far more than any legal entity for both the business practices that are in place regarding food, and the pathetic condition of most of our food. It's the regulatory agencies that allow the farming conditions that allow so many food borne pathogens ~ and those same agencies that regulate packaging, shipping, and handling of all foods. It's the regulatory agencies that allow our meat to be dosed with antibiotics and ALL of the other crud that farmers are allowed to feed them, how they are housed and 'cared' for, and how those animals are slaughtered (and the filthy conditions they are killed and butchered in).

The legal issues don't start until after someone gets sick from what the regulatory agencies shove down our throats ... and those agencies are exempt from AND above the law. Why anyone puts up with this is beyond me. Why so many put up with it boggles my mind.

I agree btw as far as the waste of food in this country. It's staggering.

I'm not sure if making tossed food available would do much good in the long run. I've seen people pick up food from pantries and just toss half of it because 'they don't like _____ (fill in that blank with beans, canned meat, certain vegetables, etc.). I've seen/heard people complain about produce from food banks. Granted, if a person is truly hungry they will eat just about anything, but many who stand in those lines aren't truly hungry. Many are there because they have better things to spend their cash on than food. That is also part of the problem, and it needs to be addressed right along with the waste (because those people are wasting just as much). The whole situation is a mess.


Quoting Sisteract:

IMO, individuals can take food safety risks for themselves that businesses that serve the public can not. Choosing for oneself to eat expired or likely rotten food is different than another passing serving you rotten food. 

We have been known to push the envelope in our own home but I certainly would not serve  these things to guests...I have also suffered the effects of eating older stuff too.

Blame the legal community for the practices that businesses have in place.

Food borne pathogens can do harm.


 

mehamil1
by Platinum Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:43 AM

When I read shit like this, it amazes me that there are hungry people in this nation. It's not a supply problem. that's obvious, but a distribution problem. 

talia-mom
by Gold Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:47 AM

It's not necessarily a distribution problem in this country.  Our food pantry provides food.  I would say over 50% of these people either complain or turn down a significant portion of what we provide because "we don't eat that shit" or " that is white people food.  Where's the good stuff?"

I firmly believe from my experience it is a spoiled American society that thinks everything should be there whenever they want.




Quoting mehamil1:

When I read shit like this, it amazes me that there are hungry people in this nation. It's not a supply problem. that's obvious, but a distribution problem. 



mehamil1
by Platinum Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

50 million people in this country suffer food insecurity/are hungry. That's an insane amount. Your pantry may be full but that doesn't mean other pantries are. Charities have been saying for a long time now that they are not able to meet the need. Part of that is distribution issues. Getting the food from one place to another. 

I don't know why you do what you do with this food pantry since it's obvious that you have some severe animosity towards the people who come to use it. I've been volunteering with an organization that works with victims of sex trafficking so I understand that there is a good amount of frustration there working with people who don't seem to want to help themselves. However, the grand majority are not like that. At least in my experience. 

Quoting talia-mom:

It's not necessarily a distribution problem in this country.  Our food pantry provides food.  I would say over 50% of these people either complain or turn down a significant portion of what we provide because "we don't eat that shit" or " that is white people food.  Where's the good stuff?"

I firmly believe from my experience it is a spoiled American society that thinks everything should be there whenever they want.

Quoting mehamil1:

When I read shit like this, it amazes me that there are hungry people in this nation. It's not a supply problem. that's obvious, but a distribution problem. 

talia-mom
by Gold Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM
1 mom liked this
And millions of kids have been dumping lunches this year because they don't like how healthy they are. Don't believe me? Look it up. It is about what they want and not what is available a huge chunk of the time.

I don't deny I have huge problems with people using charity and then bitching about what they get.


Quoting mehamil1:

50 million people in this country suffer food insecurity/are hungry. That's an insane amount. Your pantry may be full but that doesn't mean other pantries are. Charities have been saying for a long time now that they are not able to meet the need. Part of that is distribution issues. Getting the food from one place to another. 

I don't know why you do what you do with this food pantry since it's obvious that you have some severe animosity towards the people who come to use it. I've been volunteering with an organization that works with victims of sex trafficking so I understand that there is a good amount of frustration there working with people who don't seem to want to help themselves. However, the grand majority are not like that. At least in my experience. 


Quoting talia-mom:

It's not necessarily a distribution problem in this country.  Our food pantry provides food.  I would say over 50% of these people either complain or turn down a significant portion of what we provide because "we don't eat that shit" or " that is white people food.  Where's the good stuff?"

I firmly believe from my experience it is a spoiled American society that thinks everything should be there whenever they want.


Quoting mehamil1:

When I read shit like this, it amazes me that there are hungry people in this nation. It's not a supply problem. that's obvious, but a distribution problem. 


Sisteract
by Whoopie on Apr. 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM

I would disagree- without the likelihood of legal/financial repercu$$ion, many businesses would look the other way-

Quoting Farmlady09:

I blame the regulatory agencies far more than any legal entity for both the business practices that are in place regarding food, and the pathetic condition of most of our food. It's the regulatory agencies that allow the farming conditions that allow so many food borne pathogens ~ and those same agencies that regulate packaging, shipping, and handling of all foods. It's the regulatory agencies that allow our meat to be dosed with antibiotics and ALL of the other crud that farmers are allowed to feed them, how they are housed and 'cared' for, and how those animals are slaughtered (and the filthy conditions they are killed and butchered in).

The legal issues don't start until after someone gets sick from what the regulatory agencies shove down our throats ... and those agencies are exempt from AND above the law. Why anyone puts up with this is beyond me. Why so many put up with it boggles my mind.

I agree btw as far as the waste of food in this country. It's staggering.

I'm not sure if making tossed food available would do much good in the long run. I've seen people pick up food from pantries and just toss half of it because 'they don't like _____ (fill in that blank with beans, canned meat, certain vegetables, etc.). I've seen/heard people complain about produce from food banks. Granted, if a person is truly hungry they will eat just about anything, but many who stand in those lines aren't truly hungry. Many are there because they have better things to spend their cash on than food. That is also part of the problem, and it needs to be addressed right along with the waste (because those people are wasting just as much). The whole situation is a mess.


Quoting Sisteract:

IMO, individuals can take food safety risks for themselves that businesses that serve the public can not. Choosing for oneself to eat expired or likely rotten food is different than another passing serving you rotten food. 

We have been known to push the envelope in our own home but I certainly would not serve  these things to guests...I have also suffered the effects of eating older stuff too.

Blame the legal community for the practices that businesses have in place.

Food borne pathogens can do harm.




mehamil1
by Platinum Member on Apr. 25, 2013 at 10:04 AM

If you have huge problems with those who bitch about what they get, I would recomend you find something else to do. That kind of thing eats away at you. I am getting to a point where the stories these girls tell me about the shit that has happened to them is getting numb. If I can't be in a place of compassion, no matter how bitchy they are, I am of no use to them getting back on their feet and out of the cycle of abuse and too often addiction. I might need to go elsewhere. I feel the need to serve, to help. But I am of no use if I am not in a place where I can give help without feeling horrible. 

I know kids throw out their healthy food and it breaks my heart that they do that. It's a huge problem in this nation on many many many levels. 

Quoting talia-mom:
And millions of kids have been dumping lunches this year because they don't like how healthy they are. Don't believe me? Look it up. It is about what they want and not what is available a huge chunk of the time.
I don't deny I have huge problems with people using charity and then bitching about what they get.
Quoting mehamil1:

50 million people in this country suffer food insecurity/are hungry. That's an insane amount. Your pantry may be full but that doesn't mean other pantries are. Charities have been saying for a long time now that they are not able to meet the need. Part of that is distribution issues. Getting the food from one place to another. 

I don't know why you do what you do with this food pantry since it's obvious that you have some severe animosity towards the people who come to use it. I've been volunteering with an organization that works with victims of sex trafficking so I understand that there is a good amount of frustration there working with people who don't seem to want to help themselves. However, the grand majority are not like that. At least in my experience. 

Quoting talia-mom:

It's not necessarily a distribution problem in this country.  Our food pantry provides food.  I would say over 50% of these people either complain or turn down a significant portion of what we provide because "we don't eat that shit" or " that is white people food.  Where's the good stuff?"

I firmly believe from my experience it is a spoiled American society that thinks everything should be there whenever they want.

Quoting mehamil1:

When I read shit like this, it amazes me that there are hungry people in this nation. It's not a supply problem. that's obvious, but a distribution problem. 

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