Quick Bites

Food Collaborative takes a "Dive!" Into the Debate on Food Waste

April 8, 2014

by: Emily Sydnor
Written by Lynda Fanning

The UVA Food Collaborative hosted its 5th film screening of the academic year on April 1, showing DIVE!, written and directed by Jeffrey Seifert. The documentary examines the high food waste in this country, which is especially disturbing given the prevalence of hunger and the effect of food waste in landfills on the environment and climate change. The film did not dwell on food wasted by schools, hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, hospitals, etc., and only slightly treated the wasted food of individual households; rather it focused on foods wasted by food stores/chains whose products reach the sell by date. Starting with dumpster divers and exploring corporate and nonprofit avenues from there, the movie explored when and how stores donated to various charities or simply tossed the “expired” food in the dumpster.

The panel of experts was moderated by Tanya Denckla Cobb, Assistant Director of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation, and included: Chris Stephens, Sustainability Director for UVA Dining Services, Eric Walter, Black Bear Composting, and Mike Waldmann, Society of St. Andrews. Chris and Eric have partnered to salvage any compostable food products to save them from the landfill and to contribute to feeding the soil via compost. Mike explained the great work of gleaning programs developed by his organization, salvaging food crops that may not be sellable but are still good and can provide significant hunger relief via food banks, etc.

As for Charlottesville stores, most now have greatly improved their ability to donate before resorting to the dumpster. The Good Samaritan law protects them from liability and even though the “sell by” or “best before” date has arrived, the products are safe and are often frozen before being passed on. Some stores are on a schedule with various charities arriving weekly to pick up such products at set times. Some will name the specific charities they work with; sometimes, however, it is inconsistently successful (“sometimes donated; sometimes tossed” or “depends on the department”). So in spite of great improvement since 2009 when the film was made and dumpsters were regularly filled with excellent food, there is still much to do to raise awareness among consumers re their own practices, and their ability to influence the stores where they shop. All panelists had plenty of good ideas for actions we may all take, the role of policy, and simply asking your store managers what their practices are for decreasing food waste, letting them know clearly that this is important for you as the consumer and your continued patronage.



Copyright © 2012 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.