Dive! [A Film About Food Waste In America]

by Sarah on September 16, 2011 · 15 comments

My post this week on saving food from waste proved to be quite timely, as last night I was honored with an invitation to a screening of the documentary Dive!, presented by the Capital Area Food Bank at the Blanton Museum of Art as a part of Hunger Action Month.

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Although I would have been happy to attend simply for the rush of excitement that comes from picking up a ticket from the VIP line…
…and some tasty treats at the reception before the film screening…….I found the movie incredibly powerful in its message, and left all fired up to tell y’all about it. So much so that I abandoned my half-written post to share this film with you.*
*OK, well, thoughts ABOUT the film…not the actual film. For that you’ll have to do some investigating into ITunes or wait around for Netflix to pick it up.
The film claims its focus to be “dumpster-diving” in America, chronicling the tale of a family (and some friends) who head into unlocked dumpsters behind grocery stores and retrieve pound upon pound of perfectly good food that has been thrown away due to slight imperfection or an approaching “sell-by” date.

Although it starts off as a rather humorous, lighthearted take on saving food from demise and profiting from the waste of others—the writer/director’s two-year-old-son is particularly adorable, and a scene where a dumpster-diver gets the police to sit back and let him trespass is great fun to see—it quickly becomes about something more: the horrific amount of food waste generated in this country while there is extreme hunger not only here, but in other, even more impoverished countries as well.

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One shocking statistic? 96 billion pounds of food are wasted each year in the United States, which equals out 300 pounds of food waste for every person living here. One in six Americans are “food insecure,” and, here in Central Texas, that ratio is an even scarier one in five. [As for kids…that’s the worst statistic: one in four is suffering from hunger.]
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The film does tend to focus on the waste generated by grocery stores*–Trader Joe’s is the most referenced target–that throw away bags upon bags of nearly expired foodstuffs and slightly damaged perishables (i.e. entire clamshell boxes of strawberries for one that is mushed or moldy).
*As a market employee myself, I have seen firsthand the struggle that comes from having to meet customer demand for product perfection and the threat of lawsuit that prevents selling items anywhere near their sell-by date. Thankfully, I know my store, and the corporation that owns it, participates in composting and the Central TX Food Rescue program, so it’s at least trying to make a difference.

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But just because the film focuses a lot of energy on waste at the store or corporate level, doesn’t mean there aren’t things WE can do to help reduce waste (and perhaps take a stand against hunger). At the panel following the film—which included writer/director, Jeremy Seifert, and the President and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, Hank Perret–many ideas were generated as to what we, as individuals, can start doing today to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem.First and foremost, simply pay attention. Look at how much food you waste and think about how you could reduce it. Compost if you can. When preparing meals, think “What should we eat?” rather than “What sounds good?” This involves what Jeremy called “eating down the fridge,” taking whatever you’ve got and making something from that rather than seeing it thrown away. This might mean you’re a bit like me and end up eating a bowl of almost-forgotten peas covered in the remnants of a jar of salsa and a bunch of tortilla chiplets…but at least that went into your belly and not in the trashcan.
When shopping, don’t necessarily take the gallon of milk or the tub of yogurt from the back of the shelf. What doesn’t get purchased in time will most likely end up being thrown away. You can be like me and ignore expiration dates…and definitely shop the clearance sales. Remember: “sell by” is a suggestion, and most foods last a good week after their expiration date.
Lastly, don’t neglect foods that are “edible but not presentable.” A sweet potato that looks a little mangy on the outside……will roast up quite beautifully if you give it a chance.

Most importantly, remember what Jeremy himself says in the movie:
“Food is life. It should never be wasted.”
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

eatmybeets.com September 16, 2011 at 6:30 am

So true! Great post. Grocery stores should really just make a stockpile of what they're going to throw away in the back, make people sign waivers that say they won't sue if they get sick, and then just hand out the food! It doesn't make sense to throw all that good food away when there are people EVERYWHERE who don't have enough food to feed themselves and their children. I for one work with a lot of people who would seriously benefit for a project like this.

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Sister Smart September 16, 2011 at 7:06 am

That's so cool sister! I', glad you were able to see that. I would have loved it!

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Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free September 16, 2011 at 7:23 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!!!! Not sure I would dumpster dive myself….welll….then again, I might!

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Tricia @ Saving room for dessert September 16, 2011 at 7:51 am

Good one girl! We compost, mostly because we have a garden and don't want to use chemicals on our food. We recycle and eat every last leftover even if that means tomatoes everyday for a month. I would love to see this film – thanks for the reminders.

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brocstar September 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

Sounds like a great film! I've become really careful about food over the years simply because I cannot afford to waste any.. unless I literally want to be in that starving statistic. In Oregon, 1/5 people are on food stamp benefits. It really is sad!

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owlmazing September 16, 2011 at 8:34 am

This is really a great post! I am always trying to reduce my waste more…partially because I noticed I am not the best at it in the first place. I am trying now though! It's a good message that everyone should keep in mind day to day.

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table September 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

I'm so glad you wrote this post! Wastes drive me crazy. While I wouldn't resort to dumpster diving (I'm a hard core germ-phobe), I do make an effort to use everything I have.

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Lisa Goddard September 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

Thank you so much for joining us and sharing your thoughts.
– Lisa Goddard
Capital Area Food bank of Texas

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Anastasia September 16, 2011 at 10:08 am

Expiration dates never bother me and I'll always buy the stuff that's been reduced because it's about to go bad. I'd never heard of this film but I really want to see it now! I love the quote at the end.

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iheartvegetables September 16, 2011 at 11:31 am

Oh wow I definitely want to see this movie, even though it will probably make me feel really guilty! I'm a terrible food waster :( I hate to say it but its true!

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Mary @ Bites and Bliss September 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I've seen this before! Or at least something like it. I really wanted to go dumpster diving afterward.

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Claire @ Un Bello Aperitivo September 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

This is a terrific post! I've increasingly become more aware of the waste I create, and I've noticed that my mom seems to throw a lot of food away because she forgets about it before it goes bad.

I was shocked when a friend threw away some carrot sticks from his lunch because he couldn't finish them then and he "didn't like 'leftovers'."

As Americans, I think that we're predisposed to think that because we come from a land of plenty, it's perfectly okay to throw away that last apple because it's got a bruise on it, or the almost expired carton of yogurt because you're just not "feeling it."

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Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean September 17, 2011 at 9:19 pm

you could have starred in this movie! well, not the wasting part but the saving the wasted part!! sound like a really interesting movie.

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spinachandskittles.com September 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

How interesting. I'll be adding this to my netflix queue when I see it show up. I didn't realize it was such a big thing (the dumpster dive eating) until the Portlandia spoof, and then I did a little investigating. Crazy how much food goes to waste.

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