Dumpster-diving New Yorkers are not a sign of the apocalypse
By Susie Cagle
NBC brings us this “heartbreaking scene” of New Yorkers dumpster diving outside an East Village Key Foods.
The people there are “so hungry they literally pried open this dumpster — you see that door open right now — and they are literally picking through for whatever they can take home with themselves.”
While lower Manhattan is certainly still in post-Sandy crisis mode, without water, power, or enough food, it’s tough for me to see the heartbreak here, specifically, in the recesses of this massive packed dumpster. As a veteran eater of bagels from New York City dumpsters, this doesn’t look to me like “the most extreme example of what people are willing to do right now just to bring food home.” Those trash receptacles are routinely full to the brim with great edible food that stores ditch often because it’s past its sell-by date.
Individually, Americans throw away almost half their food (Seattle is currently studying that trash more in depth). Sometimes we let it rot in our homes, and sometimes we chuck the perfectly good stuff, sending it away to rot instead in landfills.
The act of rescuing and reusing any bit of that doomed food is not a heartbreak — it is a triumph. And you don’t have to call yourself (or anyone, ever, please) a damn “freegan” to do it.
But the troubles brought on by Sandy have pushed new people to try dumpster diving — particularly as food-stamp benefits can’t be used in stores without power, like many of those on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Buzzfeed spoke to some of the divers at the Key Foods dumpster, including Amaris Perez, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother.
Perez said she’s never eaten out of a Dumpster before, but she often struggles to feed her five children with the help of her boyfriend, who works in a meat factory. “Honestly this food is just sitting here,” she says, referencing the huge pile that other East Village residents are rummaging through, handing salvageable food over the side of the bin to their families.
Perez’s kids are pictured grinning with a big bag full of perishables, including fresh citrus, that they wouldn’t have been able to buy anywhere below 14th Street.
Prefer trucks over dumpsters? In lower Manhattan right at this very moment, food trucks are giving away free meals.