It all started with an onion.
We were pulling out of the parking lot of a local produce store in North Port, Florida in 2014 when a lonely onion rolled across the street in front of us. I’m not sure who decided to grab it first but somewhere in that moment we both came to the same conclusion: Onions are food and no food will be left behind or forgotten!
Laying all cheesy references to cartoon movies aside, that moment was a turning point for us. At first we were simply curious. Where did this onion come from and were there any more like it? The short answer we found was “yes”. There were lots of onions, along with a great amount of other perfectly edible fruits and vegetables, being set out to rot every single day. And not just in North Port. Farmers, grocers, and families all across America were tossing out food left and right. Some because it wasn’t pretty (aka – sellable), others because it was past the date on the package, and still more simply because nobody wanted it.
That single onion rolling across Toledo Blade Boulevard sparked a crusade that ultimately led us to do something we never thought we’d ever do – dive into a dumpster. Yet on a cold February day in 2017, we did just that. We lost our dumpster virginity behind a discount grocery store to an average looking green refuse bin filled to the brim with what could have easily been a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four. Over the course of the next 11 months, we visited that same dumpster more than 90 times, rescuing approximately 319 pounds of fresh produce, baked goods, canned and packaged goods, and the occasional meat. A few times we even walked away with household goods like hand soap and brand new blankets and once, we lucked upon a book of collectible coins that we sold on Ebay for $30.
What does one do with 319 pounds of found foods? We ate it. We shared it. We helped our neighbors in need. In total, 13 people (not including ourselves) benefited from our food finds this year.
2017 Rescued Foods
As you scan the list of foods we rescued from the dumpster in 2017, keep this in mind: This was one dumpster…visited twice a week…by 2 people…with 2 reusable grocery bags (and a homemade grabber). On a few occasions we encountered other rescuers but even among the group, there was simply no way we could rescue all of the foods that were tossed. I dare say that hundreds of times the amount that we rescued went to the landfill. How sad is that??
Really sad, I’d say, especially when you consider that:
- 38 million tons of food goes to waste every year in America.
- The cost of that waste is estimated at $218 BILLION per year.
- That’s enough food to feed 190 million people EVERY DAY for a year.
And don’t even get me started on environmental impact! Rotting food in the landfill creates methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
So what are we going to do about this problem? Cue the drum roll.
In 2018, we’re launching our own Food Waste Project. Unlike the folks from the documentary film, Just Eat It, we won’t try subsisting solely on found foods for six months (though the thought did cross our minds). Rather, we want to explore the impact that we can have in our home and in our community when we strive to reduce food waste. This year, we’ll look at:
- Ways to rescue food (besides diving in the dumpster)
- How to reduce food waste at home
- The impact of growing your own food or buying local
- Awesome recipes using found foods
- What to do with food when you can’t possibly eat it
- Helping others through food waste reduction
- And many other cool topics
We’ll do all of this in some new and fun ways – like interviews and videos – and to keep ourselves on track, we’ll be posting regular recaps of our rescues as well as our attempts to have a zero-food-waste home. In addition to the weekly posts, you can keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.
We hope you join us for the journey!
View the results of our year-long food waste project at Better Me, Better World: Year in Review.