God's Politics

God's Politics

Ryan Beiler: Waste Makes Taste

Sojourners magazine readers may remember an article in our special issue on food last May in which I wrote about my adventures in dumpster diving.

Since then, I’ve received a somewhat steady stream of media inquiries into the phenomenon, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal (I was interviewed, but an editor killed the story), a Baltimore TV station, and a national talk radio show. I declined the last few of these, since I was a bit miffed by the Post article’s set-up, focusing on opposition from store managers. I don’t want raised awareness to lead to problems for me and fellow divers. But when the CBC called, I said yes – since it will only be broadcast in Canada, my local spots will not be compromised. I’m reasonably happy with their report, though they interviewed us at length and didn’t include any of my testimony regarding the spiritual underpinnings of eating garbage. You’ll just have to read the Sojourners piece to get that. (And special thanks to my partner in crime Laryn Kragt Bakker for posting this to YouTube, so I didn’t have to!)

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posted January 12, 2007 at 5:20 am

This is really encouraging. I get alot of furnature from the curb, but have never gone as far to get food from the trash. This video, (as well as the article in sojourners I read a while back) is helping me work up the guts to take my first dive. way to go!>

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posted January 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Ryan, I hate to be unsupportive when your motives are so admirable and good, but not eating unrefrigerated meat, eggs, and fish is one of those affluenza rules to which I subscribe. I am perfectly willing to consider that what I have learned about food safety is wrong. What comes out of the mouth makes us unclean, not what goes in and all. But salmonella is not visible to the human eye…. Aside from this, I wonder what the spiritual underpinning is, really? Certainly Fanciscan literature would yield a great deal of support for this practice. But I never got Jesus as the scavenger type – he killed a perfectly good fig tree because it hadn’t produced fruit yet, preventing all others from eating from it in the future. The Torah is full of rules about eating unclean foods – maybe because they were dangerous to consume at the time? Clearly, you’ve made it a spiritual practice by your intention alone, which I think fills it with compassion and power. But, for now, I must respect your intestinal risk-taking adventures from afar….>

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posted January 12, 2007 at 2:54 pm

I agree with Daniel. This is one of those practices that, while they might make you feel good, can make you feel really…well, bad. I’m not sure how biblical it is either to purposely tempt “fate”. This seems like behavior that if not over, is really close to crossing the line into self-destructive behavior which is also unbiblical, I believe.>

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Nancy Collins

posted January 12, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Those interested in dumpster diving in general may wish to join the Yahoo Group “Dumpster Divers Paradise” for how-tos and morale support.>

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posted January 12, 2007 at 10:48 pm

I note from the clip that the retailers say they give away the just-out-of-sellby-date stuff to food banks etc. (I know that in Britain a lot of homeless charities get a lot of their food the same way.) And yet Ryan and his friends are able to find all this stuff in the garbage. If retailer standard procedure was to donate anything whose sellby date had just expired, then there wouldn’t be anything much to chuck out. Could it be that the retailers are painting themselves as just a little bit more socially responsible than they really are????? mark>

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posted January 13, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Mark, Maybe they offer it, but there aren’t enough takers? Wolverine>

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Mike Hayes

posted January 15, 2007 at 2:53 am

Mark, Where does Second Harvest fit in?>

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posted January 15, 2007 at 5:17 pm

When I first read the article in sojourners, I thought, “This may be good for them, but it is definitely not for me.” Then a friend at church told me he had been doing it for a while and so I accompanied him on his next journey. I could not believe the bounty we brought home. Usually the “sell by date” is the next day. (If you go on a monday, it’d be tuesday’s date.) It is safe to eat because it is bread and fruit and vegetables which have a God designed expiration signal. The meat is usually still cold and all of it has to be cooked which means the health risk is minimalized. Also, because the food has to be cooked it isn’t accessible to the homeless so it is not reaping their harvest. My friend said about the health risks, “I told my lord that I’d stop when I got sick.” So far he hasn’t stopped and neither have I.>

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posted January 16, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Wow, I really admire these guys. I think the thing that would be toughest for me would be giving up the control – being able to choose exactly what to buy/eat and when. It really challenges me think about how much I value control.>

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posted January 17, 2007 at 3:40 am

Josh said, My friend said about the health risks, “I told my lord that I’d stop when I got sick.” Can you see the danger in this kind of attitude regarding one’s behavior? “I told my lord that I’d stop [insert other unhealthy/unsafe behavior here] when I got sick.” I admire the zeal of these folks, but good grief, can’t they display a little more humility?>

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posted January 17, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Soon I will be studying to be a chef. I don’t know what to make of this. Can food I can see, hell even broccli and so other stuff but filet mignon and other meats… I realize chicken is the only real meat that needs to be cooked all the way thru but dang… I do wish there were a better way to use the excess food. p>

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