Rob Greenfield Shows Cleveland How Much Food is Wasted in Dumpsters Each Day

click to enlarge Rob Greenfield lays out the day's dumpster catch. - Eric Sandy / Scene
Eric Sandy / Scene
Rob Greenfield lays out the day's dumpster catch.
Rob Greenfield motioned over to this big truck parked on Rockwell Avenue, and it was pretty clear that he's excited. "We got a lotta food!" Packed up in boxes in the truck-bed were bananas, potatoes, heads of lettuce, 12-packs of soda, crackers, ice tea, watermelons, and much more. A cornucopia. A feast. 

And all this food was free, though that's not really the point. Greenfield was here, carting boxes of food onto Public Square, to demonstrate the sheer quantity of perfectly edible food that gets tossed into dumpsters behind grocery stores and drug stores around the country. A cornucopia. 

Earlier in the day on Sept. 5, Greenfield and a team of Budget Dumpster employees hit up unlocked dumpsters outside Aldi and CVS stores on the westside, along with several other spots. Within, they found plenty of food that was either still edible or, in some cases, weeks or months away from expiring. stain

"When food goes into the dumpsters, it's all still perfectly good food," Greenfield says. "Go into a grocery store: Do you ever see bad food on the shelves? No. And it goes straight from the shelf to the dumpster, which means when it goes into the dumpster it's still really good." Evidenced by the mountains of sealed snacks and mostly untainted produce, that certainly seemed to be the case. 

Given the visual that Greenfield displayed, he said corporate policies should support donating food, rather than dumping it right away. He cited the 1996 Good Samaritan Act, which protects companies from liability when they donate food to nonprofits. That's the typical retort when people oppose food donations — a concern that companies will be pursued in the courts system. The Good Samaritan Act has ensured that no lawsuits have ever been filed against a grocery store donating its food.

The whole process on Public Square was fairly mesmerizing. Throughout the evening, long after the established press corps in this town had bailed, men and women and children came up to the cache of food and asked what was going on here. Greenfield explained his bit and said that all the food would be given away shortly. Most people said they'd wait. Some welled up with tears at the prospect. When he made the call to give away the food, dozens of men and women picked up groceries and household products. The impact was clear. 

Updated with reader input: