A Dumpster of Riches | Sojourners


Food collected from a dumpster.

A Dumpster of Riches

By Jackie Parker

Jackie Parker rescues food with her husband, Craig Hargett, in Raleigh, N.C. She spoke with Sojourners' Jenna Barnett.

“WE HAVE ENOUGH food in this country to feed an entire other United States, but it’s going to waste before it gets to people’s tables. It feels crazy to me that with so many people going hungry, the U.S. is wasting close to half of the food that is produced. It’s hard to do anything on an empty stomach.

A year and a half ago, we started dumpster diving. Since then, we’ve seen an obscene amount of food being wasted. We’ve been able to feed our family of three almost entirely on dumpster-diving food, and feed other families we know are food insecure. Often there’s even more than they can eat.

We had to kiss a few frogs before we found the dumpster that we really liked. Generally, we go out at night after grocery stores close. While it’s not illegal to dumpster dive, it is technically trespassing. Dumpster diving etiquette is to be respectful of the business and leave the site as clean or cleaner than you found it. We just reach in and pull things out. Sometimes [my husband] Craig will use a pick-up stick—you push a little button and it clamps on like a Go Go Gadget arm. We wash everything with a water-and-vinegar solution. Some things we have to compost, but that’s better than the landfill.

Our last Thanksgiving dinner was entirely dumpster dove: a whole smoked turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, and roasted potatoes. There was even a pumpkin pie in there, and fresh cranberries that I made into sauce.

We had a daily practice of saying a little prayer of gratitude. And now, with all the bad news over the last [year], we look at what’s in front of us and say, ‘And here is this bounty; here is this bounty that was rescued to be on our table and that we have gotten to share with others. Thank you again for all the farmers, the workers, and those who shipped it, and the dumpster for providing it.’”

The April cover of Sojourners looks like a scrapbook page with photos from a same-sex marriage, a rainbow ribbon and gold leaves.
This appears in the April 2021 issue of Sojourners

Jackie Parker rescues food with her husband, Craig Hargett, in Raleigh, N.C.