Dive, and Food and Waste and What About Me?

I found myself with a few idle hours this afternoon. A true Sabbath rest, or as close as a mom to 6 gets. So I settled into my favorite recliner and decided to watch a movie.

Documentaries are my guilty pleasure. Dakotapastor and the Dakotakids don’t care for them. I’m a closet anthropologist, so I am drawn to them. I’ve watched too many food related docs lately, and they usually make me fear food…so I decided to try another topic. And then Dive caught my eye. It was a food doc, but it was primarily about food waste.

My curiosity was peaked as I had just listened to a presentation from the Great Plains Food Bank just last week about the astounding amount of food that is wasted in America before it even gets to our dining table. I KNEW that we wasted a lot of food once it gets to our table, one look at the food scrapings of the Dakotakids makes that abundantly clear.

The film opens with scenes of some bearded, slightly dirty men “dumpster diving” behind a grocery store. My first feeling was pity, that these men could not afford to buy food. But the next scene was of these same men grilling steaks and serving a lavish spread at a baby shower. All with food procured from a dumpster behind a high end grocery store.

These people could afford food…yet they had freezers full of food that they “rescued” and paid nothing for.

Dive! Trailer from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

My feelings were mostly that of annoyance with a system that would throw out food rather than feed the hungry in our country. Dakotapastor pointed out, and rightly so, that part of the blame falls on us, the consumer. We are demanding of our retailers. If we go to the store and expect to buy a steak, potatoes and the makings of a garden salad, we complain loudly if the grocer is out of any of the items we desire. Can you imagine the uproar if you were to attend a catered event and the caterer were to run out of food? These very attitudes lead grocery stores to over purchase food and our caterers to over plan for events.

Dakotapastor also pointed out that our own overprotective government is to blame. Do you think, for instance that the sell by dates on our food are, perhaps, a bit too conservative? I often purchase meat that is perfectly fresh a few days within the sell by date at a significant discount. I freeze it, and feed it to my beloved family with no ill effects.

I think some of the problem can lie in man power. While there are local organizations (Great Plains Food Bank is a local one here) that can accept and redistribute close dated, overstocks and cosmetically flawed food items, it takes work to get these items from the retailer to the food bank. And many retailers may find it easier to simply toss the un-sellable items in a dumpster rather than take the time to contact the right people to get the goods from point a to point b.

Now, I do think there were some faulty claims in the movie. At one point the jump was made that our wastefulness contributes to the hunger we see in places like Haiti and the continent of Africa. However, our cleaning our plates here in America will not make food magically appear on the plates of our precious brothers and sisters in Haiti.

I also don’t think that our government plays a role in reducing our food waste. I think our reducing waste actually has to be a bottom up movement. I’m not sure that bullying our grocers and putting cameras in their faces is going to make them magically desire to help the needy. I do think that if most business owners are approached about the opportunity to donate their food destined for the dumpster without fear of litigation in case of food poisoning etc. (Good Samaritan Law) they will respond favorably, as long as it does not require extra work on their part.

I am pleased to know that both Cashwise foods and Dan’s Supermarket here in Bismarck donate their surplus to the Great Plains Food Bank.

As for myself, the documentary made me a little more aware of the waste that goes on in our own home. I plan on being more mindful about what I purchase for our consumption, use what I buy and not overcook which leads to leftovers that get thrown away. I do think that reducing our food waste begins at home.

It is embarrassing that here, in the land of milk and honey, where we have so much and produce so much, so many still go hungry. Sadly, much as in the case of Haiti and Africa, I think the cause of American hunger is a result of bad choices and politics. You and I…we have the power to be the change.

Follow the simple rules my father had at his dinner table: “Take all you can eat, and eat all you take.”

Let’s stop being food hoarders. I think some of our extreme couponing measures lead to a lot of food stored, and not a lot eaten.

Volunteer with your local food banks, offer to help transport food from supermarkets and restaurants to places where the food can be used.

Grow your own food when you can, and donate the surplus.

Don’t fuss if your supermarket runs out of food. This is actually a sign of good waste management.

Don’t be afraid of close dated items if you can use food quickly. It makes no sense for our family of eight to pass over a gallon of milk that is dated within a week…we can go through a gallon in a day!

Do you want to watch Dive! The Film? It is available on Netflix streaming, or you can download it from iTunes.  I can guarantee you that you will take something from the film. I may not have agreed with everything shown, and yet, it did challenge me to change some of our habits.

Chime in! Have you seen Dive? What are your thoughts? Do you have solutions or ideas on how to deal with our food management issues?