Would You Dumpster Dive For Your Dinner?

Diving through the  recycle bin for coupons (with the permission of the owner) is one thing, but diving through the dumpster for dinner?  That’s a whole different story.  Or is it? Did you know Americans throw away 96 billion pounds of food each year? Why is so much food going to waste?  More importantly, why isn’t the food being donated to people who actually need it?  Watch the movie clip below and give us your take on the situation.

Dive!: Living off America’s Waste $16.99 on DVD


  • Gail Knickerbocker

    When we had little to no money, my husband and I and all our kids would dumpster dive regularly.  We knew where to go and what would likely be there.   It is certainly a way to get what you need.  I really did not like it when Albertson’s in Tooele Utah put some kind of cage over the top of their garbage bin.  That was 20 yrs ago or so but it was so stupid.  All that food and NO ONE allowed to take it home and eat it.  If we could afford to buy it we would have.  It is not like they were losing money, we had none anyway.

  • Miriam

    I was unable to watch the movie because there are no CC and I don’t have speakers on my computer, so I read the comments. Personally, I don’t mind if people want to dumpster dive if they want to as long as they are not selling what they get from it.

    A lot of people in the comments were putting ALL blame on the stores. Yes, stores are there to make money, but some of the largest contributers to and founders of charities are the rich. Just because someone is the manager doesn’t mean they are a bad person and don’t want to donate. How many soup kitchens, not-for-profits, etc have actually come to the stores asking for them to set the food aside for someone to come pick up?

    Also, in the US, if you can sue and think you can win, you do it. In the age where a criminal can try to steal form a house, fall through a skylight and win because the owner had a ‘dangerous house’, who can afford to show kindness when someone you are serving is going to sue you anyway? If people would just not try to sue over any little thing, this world would run so much smoother.

  • D'Anna

    On a Bizarre Foods episode the host went around San Francisco w/ a group that would dumpster dive grocery and produce markets, then take their haul back to a kitchen to make soups and other foods to feed the homeless and or hungry. It’s technically theft if you remove stuff from the stores dumpster so they were doing it all Mission Impossible style. I can totally appreciate their efforts to feed hungry people on perfectly good items that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

  • melody

    I would be nervous to eat meat found in a dumpster myself.  However, I find it rediculous that it is illegal to steal garbage!  So sad what we waste in our nation…

  • KrazyRussian

    I’m from Russia and I can certainly say,that Americans throw away A LOT of food. When I just get to US I worked at the local university cafeteria and I wold cry over the food,that was thrown away. I just wished,that they would donate it same shelter or so. Very sad…

  • shayla

    This is sad but at the same time I see what the other girl was saying getting sued is a big part of it! I helped out passing free lunches at a local school this summer where allot of the food went to waste. When people asked if they could take it home we has to say no due to the fact that if the school passed out something that went home and made someone sick the school would get sued even though they were doing some thing good! Its so sad they people take advantage of everything!! It makes it hard to do the right thing if there’s such a big risk of getting sued.

    • The government puts too many rules on everything including the food for schools. Not only can they not take what they don’t eat they must take certian things in order for the school to be reinbrused. We are on a very low income due to me breaking my neck years ago. I told my boys to bring back the fruit they didn’t want and we’d put in a basket on the table…no couldn’t. My oldest boy told me they make him take the fruit and milk even if they know he won’t eat it. To top it off my husband works as a janitor at the school and sees boxes of fruit being thrown out and bags of sealed bread that is still good. This year alone he brought home enough peaches for our entire church and huge emounts of hoggie buns. We frozen the buns shared them with a family we know is struggling to pay rent, we’ve made pizza bread out of them, roast beef sandwhiches, and texas tst a fav in my house. We haven’t eat a 3rd of it. It is crazy and stupid the waste that gets thrown away. Give to soup kitchens….that would be the most bang for your buck…but they don’t care.

  • Melissa

    If you’ve never had to eat  from a restaurant or grocery store dumpster recognize that you are very rich indeed and have been your whole life.


    • Tasha

      Melissa  you make a great statement, we should all be thankful to put food on our table. If I had to feed my kids and that was the only way possible I would do it no questions asked.

  • I believe the United States is the biggest waster of food. I’m actually looking forward to watching this movie. Thanks for posting it.

  • Melissa S

    Actually when I was a kid we lived in a trailer park that had a Frito Lay distribution center near by & they would fill up the dumpster with chips that were perfectly good, so one day my brother & I jumped in & grabbed out a ton of chips… Then we learned the schedule & we would keep going back on the scheduled days… Then one day there were twinkies, ding dongs & ho ho’s we thought we were in heaven…. We kept going back there until we moved & never had to buy chips or snackies…

    I see NOTHING wrong with dumpster diving especially if you can feed people who are starving. If worst came to worst I would definately do that to feed my family…

    Thanks for the post fab gals…

  • tia

    I see nothing wrong with it–but I would not eat meat from the dumpster–ick!  And I would worry about feeding others with the food.

  • Dara

    I think this is a big eye opener and is very true that us as Americans do waste a lot of food while there are hungry people out there.  I can understand from the consumer’s stand point.  However at the same time, i can also understand from the companies stand point.

    The food are thrown out because they are almost out of date.  And almost out of date food also has it’s risk of food poisoning.  Therefore, when people eat these food from the garbage that belongs to the grocery store  and gets sick, they can still sue the store for millions of dollars.  It’s a legal issue.

    • it shows another level of America’s greed. If you eat something out of a dumpster you should be well aware of risks. Sueing someone because you ate their trash is ridiculous!

      • girlygirl

        This is also the reason that stores do not want to donate almost outdated food.  If they donate and someone gets sick they get sued.  That should be illegal in itself. 

        A few years ago I was in Las Vegas at the closing of a buffet.   While I was sitting at the table I watched the clean up crew grab the trash cans and start dumping all of the food from the buffet into the trash.  (it was the same food that I had just served myself and was eating)  I asked why they did not donate the food to a homeless shelter.  They said if someone got sick they would get sued.  That is just wrong.

        • Tracy

          I have always felt bad that food get thrown away like that.  Our school has a Thanksgiving Feast at a park each year and afterwards there is always so much food left over.  We tried to take it to a local shelter but they can’t take premade food.  If food stays within a danger zone of temperature, between 35 and 140 degrees for more than 4 hours, it is considered by the health department too dangerous to eat and must be thrown out.  This is the temperature where bacteria on food grows very rapidly.  I saw a Trader Joes bag on the video.  I know that our Trader Joes donates a great deal of their food to our local food bank rather than throw it in a dumpster.  But they can’t donate food that is considered unsafe.

  • Kim

    What a coincidence that this was posted.  My mom is a 2nd grade teacher.  Thursday she brought home and entire box of fresh green beans.  The cooks at the school had told the janitor to throw out the entire box because they didn’t want to snap the ends off of them.  Can you believe it!  The janitor came to my mom and said she just could throw them away and now we have an entire box of fresh green beans!  Amazing.

  • As a kid, we dumpster dove for food all the time. It truly is amazing how much is thrown out that is still very good to eat. I understand both points of view on this topic and think we should as a country work together to come up with a better solution in sustainable living.

  • myssssss

    I would never do that, I donate, time, food and money to a food pantry..I buy with coupons new food for the women’s shelter…Getting glossies from people who don’t use coupons is helpful to get new food and take it to shelters and the food pantry where I spend a lot of time..The people at the pantry are handed food in boxes for weekends. Schools send home food in a backpack for kids they know have nothing in their own pantry…No need to dumpster dive, very very dangerous..Here salvation army picks up loads of free food not sold at Safeway all year long, the other stores have barrels for food you buy at the grocery store, or you can donate a meal for a family at QFC for $15.00 or $ 25.00 they put in nutritious food for the family…I have seen the face of hunger it is mostly now children, elderly, disabled, abused and working poor..Food banks scramble to get donations, no need to dumpster dive to help them, just buy a little extra cans of the good stuff, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, canned Chicken, canned Tuna, chunky soups, soups that you can make with water (Beaver Creek) use coupons get them for little money from your glossies..Too many places the dumpsters have glass in them and dangerous stuff with the food tossed..It is terrible to see all the waste, but one can help the poor and starving without endangering one’s self dong it..I would never do that and no one at the pantry I spend a lot of time and the women’s shelter would ever suggest it and I have been volunteering for many years..too dangerous..just terrible so many places toss perfectly good food into the dumpsters where so many are starving……

    • did you read the other comments? Schools sending food home, you have someone breaking the “rules” to do that one. Food banks here; require police background checks and only allow for a family to recieve help 3-4 times a yr. And when my mother-in-law ran it she would get all the day old breads from the store…give it out every tues to whoever came in, the lady that took over refused because she didn’t want t be feeding the immagrants. So wrong.  How many people with shady past or colored skin must strave before the government cares? I’d like to see you live off 4 boxes of food for an entire year. Homelessness has a horrible cycle…can’t get a job because your dirty, smelly , and have no way to be contacted. Can’t get a home without $$. Yes there are great programs out there, but how many single men can get on them? This country needs to rethink the way things are done…start caring about it’s own people, not just the upstanding and wealthy, as much as we care about the other countries.

  • Lindsay

    I think that is a creative way to get food when you can’t afford it. I also think those people are taking responsibility for their families instead of relying on the Govt. However, I can see why it is illegal. There is a large chance that someone WILL get sick, and stores and restaurants don’t want lawsuits. I wish stores would have a time that people could come to the back of the store and get the food they need BEFORE it is thrown away.

  • kimberly

    I”ve never dumpster dived but I go fruit gleening.  I help pick at church orchards to help the church and they let you gleen for free off the ground. It’s canning season so I can all the fruit I can get for cheep or free.  Then we live off it through the year.  It’s harvesting time ask others who have garden’s or fruit trees if they have any they don’t want.  most of the time they would love to give some away but they just don’t know who wants it. I make a list and write down who gave me what from there yards.  Then the next year I call and ask them about there extra.  Also I don’t buy canning jars new.  I go garage saling in the spring and get them for .25 cents or less.  If you don’t can get together with a friend who dose and have them help you for the first few time.  Apples are on right now.

  • Jamie

    My family had to dumpster dive when I was a kid. We were from a small town, so most people knew our situation. My dad went and talked to the managers of the 2 grocery stores in our town. Because they were chain stores, they weren’t supposed to let us have it, but since he talked to the managers they both told him that they’d basically just turn their head. They would put the food into the bin right before they knew we would come and get it.

    Maybe to some of you, this is disgusting. But for us, it was a matter of whether we would eat or not. There was nothing wrong with my dad physically, he’d just gotten laid off and couldn’t find a job. Rather than go on welfare, he worked his butt off mowing lawns, we went and gleaned potato fields from farmers that were okay with it, and we dumpster dived. I think we should be impressed by people who are actually willing to do for themselves, instead of thinking the government should just take care of them. And remember, one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure (or simply sustenance).


  • Julie

    I think it’s cool, and I like to see people figuring out ways to make better use of waste and take care of themselves and others.  Some almost-out-of-date food *is* donated, by Albertson’s and other supermarkets, to food banks.  I volunteer at a food bank, and almost all the meat we get is meat that was about to expire, so some supermarket froze it and donated it.  I also know that, for example, outside of Las Vegas is a pig farm, and those pigs are fed almost exclusively on scraps from the buffets; the farmer has contracts with some of the big hotels and feeds all those scraps to pigs…and then he sells the pigs to us, of course, for yummy bacon!  The thing is, if you keep in mind that some almost-expired food is being donated and some is going to pigs…and there is still that much food in dumpsters.  And you are paying for all that waste (at least, anyone who doesn’t coupon is!) all the time, because the prices grocery stores charge factor in that amount of waste.

    To me, dumpster diving is just good old human ingenuity at work.  See a problem, solve it.  I just wish it weren’t illegal.

  • Lindsay Van Allen

    I have a lot of problems with the premise of this video.  I agree that too much food is thrown away in the US, but that is because of harsh regulations on the grocery industry.  Those regulations were put into place to “keep people safe”.  The regulations on dumpster diving were also put into place to “keep people safe”.  The regulations were also developed, out of necessity, so that stores wouldn’t be sued if someone stepped on glass in their dumpster, or got sick from meat they sold a day after the expiration date.  The stores aren’t the bad guys here, they are simply trying to obey the laws and regulations, so that they can stay in business.  People should be able to dumpster dive if they want to, but we want to have it both ways and we can’t.  We can’t have strict government regulation in one area to protect people, but become all offended at the consequences of that strict regulation.  Maybe my libertarian is showing, but we can’t have it both ways.  Either stores should be allowed to sell what they want for as long as they deem it safe, regardless of if people might get sick.  Or stores should have strict regulations to keep people safe, but then waste a large amount of food that could still be okay.  We can’t get mad at them for obeying the law…or we need to change the law if we feel it is too restrictive or unnecessary.

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