Last week, the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a new organization on campus, screened “Dive!,” a documentary about dumpster diving and food waste. To most, dumpster diving to get your food is disgusting, sickening, and potentially dangerous. But, as the logic of the divers goes, why pay full price for food during the day, when the same food will end up in the dumpster at night, perfectly wrapped and perfectly edible? The “divers” in the documentary find fruit, prepared salads, flawless steaks, and bags of unblemished tomatoes. They recover so much food that they begin giving a lot away to the food banks of Los Angeles.
A few members of FRN went dumpster diving for food for Goucher’s Earth Day. Using the food we found, we cooked pepper-topped pizzas and a vegetable frittata with whole grain toast. We also had perfectly ripe fruit and dessert.
When FRN told students where the food was originally from, many hesitated and some even refused to eat the delicious options. But if they were to see the condition from which the food was taken and understood the politics of food waste explained in “Dive!,” they wouldn’t think twice about digging in. The found ingredients had been in their original packaging, all within multiple plastic bags, which had just been thrown away a couple hours earlier.
Now, this isn’t a plug for dumpster diving. FRN’s display was intended to uncover the underlying issue of the unbelievable disparity between food waste and hunger. While 40 percent of the food that is grown in the U.S. ends up in a landfill, one in six Americans lacks constant access to food. This makes no sense to us, in one of the richest countries in the world, with more than enough healthy food to feed every citizen. There are plenty of other ways to work to fill the gaps between food waste and hunger. Dumpster diving doesn’t have to take place if we recover food before it reaches a dumpster. However, many stores and organizations are afraid of donating to people in need even though the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects businesses any liability they may face. There has never been a lawsuit against a business or individual who donated food to the hungry, yet many businesses continue to hide behind this excuse.
Thankfully, Goucher and many other schools are working with the Food Recovery Network to donate their leftover food. FRN began in 2011 at the University of Maryland, College Park by two students. There are now 46 chapters across the country. FRN’s goal is to recover food that would otherwise be thrown out or put towards composting from dining halls and local restaurants. The recovered food is then brought to local shelters where people in need receive the food, connecting students with their community. Goucher’s chapter started up last semester by Sea Sloat ‘14 with recoveries from Pearlstone. This semester, we started recovering from Stimson dining hall. We have recovered approximately 430 pounds of food so far this semester, which is comparable to about 344 meals. FRN recovers from Stimson on Monday or Tuesday nights and from Pearlstone and Einstein’s Bagels on Friday nights, and we donate the food to Project Plase, a homeless shelter in downtown Baltimore.
Recovering two nights a week is definitely worth it and helpful to the community, but it is also important to further our community’s awareness of the issue of hunger, and greater social inequalities which hunger stems from. FRN is looking to host more documentary screenings in the future and partake in hunger walks, like the one done at Towson University every first Saturday of the month. For those of us in FRN, it seems so baffling that in America alone, 96 billion pounds of food are thrown away annually, yet 15 percent of Americans don’t know where there next meal will come from. On a global scale, around a third of food produced, which amounts to 1.3 billion tons, is wasted every year. The FRN executive board traveled to Chicago a couple weeks ago for the Food Waste and Hunger Summit hosted by the national FRN and Campus Kitchens. We learned about where the issues of food waste and food insecurity stem from, other organizations that are taking action, and how to create a better connection between our chapter and the Baltimore community.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.