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Hungry? Check that Dumpster.

By Conner Gordon
1 Oct 2014

We’ve all heard of dumpster divers. We’ve heard the stories about pulling perfectly edible food from supermarket trash cans and restaurant dumpsters. But who knew the lifestyle could be not only practical, but successful?

Maximus Thaler, founder of The Gleaner’s Kitchen, has done just that. For a period of time, Thaler’s Massachusetts-based organizaton provided meals 100 percent sourced from local dumpsters. For a time, Thaler himself followed the same garbage-sourced diet and, despite the stereotypes, has never gotten sick from his finds.

Considering the large amounts of food waste the United States produces, it is no wonder that an entirely dumpster-sourced meal is a practical lifestyle. In an interview with NPR, Thaler said that our current forms of food regulation lead to extravagant wastes:

“There are complex systemic reasons why there is so much food waste in this country, but at their core is the fact that most Americans have forgotten what good food is.” He argues that humans have evolved to know what good food is, and we don’t need the Food and Drug Administration or sell-by dates to tell us that.”

While dumpster diving carries with it its own risks, it seems to be working for people like Thaler. And the right to dumpster dive has been upheld by the Supreme Court. At the same time, though, stores have to make sure that the food they are selling won’t sicken their customers.

Are such practices, then, possible solutions to our food waste problem? How can we reform such throwaway practices to make a more sustainable use of food in our society?

We’re excited to continue the conversation on food ethics at the sold-out Campus Farm Dinner tonight at 5:30. A shuttle and guided bike ride will leave the UB at 5:15. Hope to see you there!

Conner was a Graduate Fellow at the Prindle Institute from 2016-2018. Conner's writing focuses on memory, politics and culture. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Oregon.
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