Diving reduces food waste

Mike Scott

Staff Writer

Aisle after aisle of food sits in a brightly lit grocery store. If you listen closely, you can hear the hum of consumption that comes from the bright lights and the freezers. The cost of bringing this food to the shelves is staggering, and yet not all of the food will sell. According to the EPA, over 1.3 billion tons of food in global food production were lost or wasted in 2011 alone.

This number might be more fathomable on a smaller scale: right here in Prescott, heaps of food are thrown away every hour.

Fifteen percent of edible food in the United States gets thrown away untouched or unopened, according to a study conducted by the University of Arizona in 2004. That is $43 billion dollars per year tossed in the trash.

Expired or retired food ends up behind the store in the dumpster. Those who skip the lines and do their shopping out back are commonly referred to as “dumpster divers.”

“Being a broke college student … this seemed like the obvious solution,” says a local man who preferred to remain anonymous. “The U.S. food system creates a disgusting amount of waste … perfectly good food is getting thrown away.”

Discarded food can come from a lot of different places in a grocery store. Things such as expired produce, day-old bread and seasonal treats all might be thrown out. “The week after Valentine’s Day was ridiculous,” says the anonymous diver while munching a bagel he found in the trash. “You can only eat so much cake with those chalky candies on top,” he says, lifting up his shirt and rubbing his belly. “But man, were they good!”

Grocery stores face difficult decisions regarding the sheer amount of food they house on their shelves and in their freezers. Surely it is not all purchased by customers. “Let me be clear in saying that we would only throw something away if it was [irreparably] damaged,” said Chuck Woelkel, Manager of Fry’s on Fair Street. “It’s company policy, and I tell all my employees, that if we would eat it, then we can donate it.”

“About 25 percent of our food [gets donated] to the Yavapai Food Bank,” said Woelkel. There are others in the area, but Yavapai Food Bank, located in Prescott Valley, is the only certified food bank in the county. There are churches and soup kitchens in the area as well, but it is Fry’s company policy to only donate to certified banks. “We can’t just donate it to you,” said Woelkel.

“People all over the earth die from starvation every day,” the local diver said. “Perfectly good food is going to waste. Besides, I don’t mind smelling like a dumpster if I’m pulling out tasty food.”

For more information on how you can reduce your food waste and save money visit: http://www.futurefriendly.com/Pages/KitchenRoom.aspx.

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