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Dumpster Divers Get Legal Protection

By Kim Robson:

 The very serious topic of food waste has been covered here on Green-Mom many times, from the Inglorious Foods campaign in France, to the Hidden Harvest movement in California, to the Food Waste Challenge in New York City.

Wasted food is a worldwide problem, and the global population is expected only to grow, adding to the challenge of global food security. In the United States alone, we throw out a shocking $165 billion dollars’ worth of food every year, all while one in seven Americans goes hungry. dumpster-diving-main

People who are devoted to rescuing unused food from restaurants and grocery stores can meet with legal challenges. I used to manage a coffeehouse, and we regularly donated our day-oldpastries to a gentleman who ran a kitchen downtown. He’d distribute unused food from a number of restaurants and cafes to the homeless. He also made it his practice to hire only indigent people for his own kitchen. But, alas, one day he told us he would no longer be picking up donated food because the city had shut down that part of his outreach program. Health codes or some other bureaucratic mumbo jumbo

Luckily, that sort of nonsense was stopped in 1996, when Congress passed the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The act encourages food donation by limiting liability of businesses and nonprofits that donate and distribute food to those in need. The legislation allows that any person or business that donates, or any nonprofit that receives food and groceries “shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates [or non-profit receives] in good faith… for ultimate distribution to needy individuals.”

Another way in which people have been fighting food waste is to literally “dumpster-dive” behind restaurants and grocery stores. It’s become a phenomenon among crusaders against food waste, with activists such as Dumpster Diving Finds posting videos on YouTube of their hauls, which are donated to people in need. We’re talking about perfectly good produce, baked goods, shelf-stable food staples, pet food, school supplies and over-the-counter medications. 

Sometimes these good Samaritans find themselves in legal trouble, though, mainly for trespassing or loitering. Environmental activist Rob Greenfield has established the Dumpster Divers Defense Fund in order to help dumpster divers who’ve been ticketed or arrested pay their legal fees. Until recently, it had been used only to pay off misdemeanor tickets. 

But then, Tony Moyer and Sam Troyer, two brothers-in-law from Lebanon, PA, were arrested for dumpster diving at a CVS store in Hershey, PA. The dumpster was located in an open enclosurein the parking lot, in plain sight, gates standing wide open. It lacked any No Trespassing signs, and the dumpster itself was unlocked and standing open. And even though there’s no law against dumpster diving in Pennsylvania, the duo was charged with loitering, prowling at night andcriminal trespassing. The men had been dumpster diving for the prior ten months without incident, collecting thousands of dollars’ worth of edible food and school supplies, and donating it to people in need. Both had clean records before their arrests. 

Greenfield traveled to Pennsylvania to meet with them and shoot this short video:

This fund will also help to bring media attention to the issue of food waste and hunger, help dumpster divers in the future who get in trouble like Sam and Tony did, and help dumpster divers to start food rescue programs to keep food out of the dumpsters,” says Greenfield.

Want to help Rob Greenfield in his fight against waste? You can do the following:

Donate to the Dumpster Divers Defense Fund,

Follow him on FacebookTwitter, or YouTube, or follow his blog and various activism projects.

Buy his book, Dude Making a Difference: Bamboo Bikes, Dumpster Dives and Other Extreme Adventures Across America100% of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to grassroots environmental nonprofits.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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